Stephen Smith Investigation: Private Eye Speaks Out

Turning everything you thought you knew about this case upside down …

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When people are told to stop talking, that’s when this news outlet starts listening … because odds are, they’ve got something to say that’s worth hearing.

After a nearly two-hour conversation with investigator Steve Peterson – who spent several months investigating the 2015 murder of Stephen Smith of Hampton, South Carolina – I can honestly say I am so glad I listened. And I think anyone following this case will be glad they listened, too … because Peterson’s interview turned everything most of us thought we knew about this case upside down.

A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Peterson is a retired senior special agent who spent decades with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). He is also the vice president of the National Law Enforcement Speakers Bureau (NLESB), a group which provides “instruction and investigative consultation” to police forces all across the country.

Pertinent to this story, Peterson was a private investigator in the employ of prominent Charleston, S.C. attorney Andy Savage during the latter’s representation of Sandy Smith – Stephen Smith’s mother.

In that capacity, he conducted extensive inquiries into the circumstances surrounding Smith’s untimely demise in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015.

To recap: Smith’s body was dumped in the middle of Sandy Run Road near Crocketville on that fateful date – where it was discovered by a passing motorist (a tow truck driver) at approximately 4:00 a.m. EDT.

How did it get there, though?



The crime scene remains a study in contradictions. The location of Smith’s body in the middle of the road was totally inconsistent with a vehicular strike – but the massive blood loss observed on the asphalt seemed inconsistent with him being murdered at another location.

The investigation into Smith’s death was originally handled by the S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) “Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team” (MAIT).  It wasn’t until nearly six years later it became an active murder case under the auspices of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

SLED opened a homicide investigation into Smith’s death shortly after the savage slayings of 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – a 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatichie River which belonged to the Murdaugh family. Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh – a scion of this once-dominant legal dynasty – was convicted of those killings and sentenced to life in prison earlier this month.

Peterson worked with SLED during the early phases of its inquiries, and in this expansive conversation he detailed some seismic revelations about what he uncovered during that time. According to him, SLED has excluded the Murdaughs from having any direct involvement in the crime. Peterson also told me he directly confronted the person he believes is responsible for Smith’s murder – who just so happens to be one of the two individuals currently considered “persons of interest” in the SLED investigation.

Oh, Peterson also believes the incident may have actually been a hit-and-run …

Those are just a few of the revelations from this far-ranging discussion, which took place earlier this week in Charleston, S.C.

To view the interview for yourself, click here. To review all of our case files on this investigation, see the links below.





As I noted in launching this series, public reaction to the Smith investigation seems to have segregated into warring sections at some sporting event – with jeering voices dominating the discussion and all manner of agenda-driven preconceptions pushing truth to the sidelines.

My news outlet will never participate in such a game.

“The job of a journalist is to follow the the truth … wherever it leads and however uncomfortable that journey may become,” I wrote. “Anything less than that is a disservice to the truth and to the memory of all victims.”

Not everyone is thrilled with Peterson sharing his points of view – and clearly several of his perspectives contradict views previously advanced by this news outlet. Or even views advanced by this news outlet as recently as this month.

Who is right? Who is wrong?

Those are the wrong questions. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong … what matters is the truth. Seeking it honestly, telling it as best we know how and constantly acknowledging that maybe we don’t have all – or even any – of the answers.



Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.



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Will Folks


Anonymous April 13, 2023 at 7:46 pm

If you look at fb photos of someones pickup, it appears that the mirrors were changed. The truck also appears to be blue.

stephen henry Top fan April 14, 2023 at 5:10 am

Very disappointed that you choose to chase clicks by providing platform for bogus PI. Self-righteous declarations about “chasing the truth” do not excuse your flagrant, irresponsible actions of the past few weeks, culminating with Peterson interview.

Jeffrey Borthick Top fan April 14, 2023 at 11:03 am

Interesting interview, but … Annoying.

‘Murdaugh’, according (simple) English language phonetics, would be properly pronounced ‘mur-daw’. Why ‘mur-dok’, ‘mur-tog’, or anything else? Looking for ‘the truth’? Start there.

This might (and probably does, to most) sound like I’m some high-sided academic, picking an irrelevant point. I am neither.

When everyone gets to make up their own language, identifying ‘no’ as ‘yes’ and ‘choosing their own truth’ become convenient and acceptable.

Joy April 14, 2023 at 12:44 pm

Jeffrey, English is taken from several languages, and pronunciations can vary. Try using a better dictionary for pronunciations. The best will cost you hundreds of dollars.

Anonymous April 14, 2023 at 6:35 pm

The Murdaugh family themselves chose to pronounce THEIR name as Murdock.

Teresa Whetzel Top fan April 14, 2023 at 6:45 pm

Little lengthy, little condescending interesting content, But WTH is up with that sniffing and all his noises? Totally distracted me because it reminds me of snow snorting

Kathleen Bounds Top fan April 15, 2023 at 1:21 pm

Glad I’m not the only one who noticed the “sniffing” and it raises some serious concerns. Classic symptom …..

Delora F Williams April 14, 2023 at 8:41 pm

The name is Murdaugh. It isn’t Murdock! I grew up in moselle. This family is very well known,and the pronunciation is always the same Murdaugh! It’s also important to consider that southern drawl of the low country dialect. Gulah dialect is often heard in this part of the state.

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The Colonel Top fan April 14, 2023 at 10:39 pm

Great interview.

stephen henry Top fan April 15, 2023 at 3:55 am

Drivel click-bait.:Equivalent of grocery store tabloid.

Carla Golden Top fan April 15, 2023 at 12:53 pm

Did anyone on the FitsNews team reach out to SLED to comment on Steven Peterson’s claim that SLED told him two years ago (btw, when SLED wasn’t the investigative agency) that anyone was excluded? As a retired LE agent, seems SP would maintain the code of LE honor to keep sensitive information confidential in an open investigation. Prematurely accusing or excluding anyone is inappropriate and irresponsible.

Looking forward to your upcoming interview of Sara Azari. It’s bound to happen because, you know, truth.

Carla Golden Top fan April 15, 2023 at 1:32 pm

My bad. Lost track of time. SLED did take the case almost 2 years ago on 23 June 2021. Still not convinced they would tell SP any pertinent details about the open investigation. SP said himself that it was an 80/20 flow of communication in SLED’s favor.


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