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Crime & Courts

Stephen Smith Grand Jury Calling Witnesses, Reviewing Evidence

Cold case heats up …

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A statewide grand jury in Columbia, South Carolina is actively investigating the 2015 homicide of Stephen Smith, multiple sources familiar with its deliberations have confirmed to this news outlet. In fact, the grand jury is scheduled to reconvene next week to review evidence and hear testimony related to the murder of the 19-year-old from Hampton, S.C.

In other words, it’s increasingly likely arrest warrants will eventually be issued in connection with this eight-year-old cold case – which gained international attention via its purported proximity to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga. Interest in the Smith case escalated even further after it was prominently featured in the hit Netflix documentary, ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.’

Confirmation of the grand jury‘s empaneling should come as no surprise to those following the case.

Two weeks ago, Lexington, S.C. attorney Eric Bland – one of the attorneys representing Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith – said he believed a grand jury had been empaneled based on his conversations with chief Mark Keel of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

“(Keel) told me subpoenas are being issued – as well as warrants – and I believe there is a grand jury empaneled,” Bland said during a May 25, 2023 panel discussion on CourtTV.

Bland was right …

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According to our sources, the grand jury has been meeting for several weeks and has already heard critical evidence related to this unsolved murder – including evidence which “conclusively proves” Smith was killed at the site where his body was found.

Forensic expert Kenneth Kinsey has reportedly confirmed this assessment based on a review of the graphic crime scene photos of Smith’s murder. Kinsey was hired to review the evidence in this case as part of an independent investigation launched by Bland’s law firm.

To recap: Smith’s body was discovered by a passing motorist (a tow truck driver) at approximately 4:00 a.m. EDT on July 8, 2015 in the middle of Sandy Run Road near Crocketville, S.C. Initially deemed gunshot wound – and later a vehicular hit-and-run – the investigation was originally handled by the S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) “Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team” (MAIT).  It wasn’t until nearly six years later that it became an active murder case handled by 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 Salkehatchie River which until recently 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 in March of this year.

(Click to View)

Buster Murdaugh listens to his father, Alex Murdaugh’s, recorded interview where he describes a suicide attempt he planned during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, February 16, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool
Buster Murdaugh listens to his father, Alex Murdaugh’s, recorded interview where he describes a suicide attempt he planned during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, February 16, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool

What was the Murdaugh family’s connection to Smith’s death? It’s not immediately clear. According to 26-year-old Buster Murdaugh – who has been accused by many on social media of being involved in the crime – there is no connection.

“These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” Murdaugh said in a statement  released back in March. “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death.”

Others close to this story – including Sandy Smith – believe otherwise. In fact, Smith wrote a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the fall of 2016 detailing the Murdaugh family’s alleged involvement.

“Stephen had on more than one occasion mentioned to friends and his twin sister that he was involved romantically with someone from a prominent family in the county who was hiding his sexuality,” Smith wrote in her letter. “He said it would shock people to know this person was gay. We suspect this could be the young man Stephen was referring to, though he never named him.”

As this news outlet reported earlier this year, SLED is considering two persons of interest in connection with Smith’s death – 25-year-old Patrick Wilson and 25-year-old Shawn Connelly, both of Brunson, S.C.

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STEPHEN SMITH CASE FILES

FILE 1: SANDY SMITH’S LETTER IMPLICATING BUSTER MURDAUGH
FILE 2: THE FIRST AUTOPSY
FILE 3: THE HIGHWAY PATROL REPORT
FILE 4: THE INITIAL INTERVIEWS
FILE 5: EXHUMATION, PERSONS OF INTEREST UPDATE
FILE 6: THE PRIVATE EYE

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Both Wilson and Connelly lived in the area near where Stephen Smith’s body was found … and there is information obtained by SLED investigators which has reportedly drawn a sharper focus on them as potential suspects. Several of these same leads were followed by producers and investigators associated with the Netflix documentary – as well as the initial legal team retained by Sandy Smith. In November of 2021, Charleston, S.C. attorney Andy Savage – who at the time was representing Smith’s family – gave an interview to WCIV TV-4 in which he indicated the Murdaughs were “unconnected” to Smith’s murder and any speculation related to their involvement was “unfounded.”

“There are suspects we have in sight that are unconnected to Murdaugh,” Savage told reporters Anne Emerson and Drew Tripp. “The focus any in the media have on Murdaugh may be unfounded.”

Sandy Smith recoiled at that revelation – and parted ways with Savage as her attorney shortly thereafter.

As previously reported by this news outlet, on December 18, 2015 – five months after Smith’s murder – SCHP investigators received a tip from Wilson’s self-described step-father, Darrell Williams of Varnville, S.C. According to Williams, Wilson informed him that Connelly – another Hampton County teenager – was driving a vehicle which “struck and killed Stephen Smith.”

Who told him to share this information? Randy Murdaugh – Alex Murdaugh’s older brother.

According to case notes contained in the MAIT report, Williams “stated that the reason he was passing this information on was because Randy Murdaugh told him to call.”

As I have often noted, the crime scene in this case is “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,” I noted in a recent report.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

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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10 comments

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VERITAS Top fan June 9, 2023 at 9:15 am

Why were Randy Murdaugh and Alex Murdaugh on the scene on Sandy Run Road the morning Stephen’s body was found? There needs to be an investigation of the initial investigation and all of its inadequacies. Whenever Murdaughs converge on a scene, it seems to mean something.

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 4, 2023 at 10:38 pm

But they were NOT. Only Sanctimonious Sandi Smith PRETENDED they were.
That back-county accident received more attention than Princess Diana’s, Dodi Fayyad’s, and their chauffeur’s deaths in Paris in 1997.
And close to the attention to the death of Marilyn Monroe, whose looks Stephen Smith was trying to emulate without much success because he remained a nickel-and-dime gay-bar nude dancer, not the international sensation Marilyn Monroe became.
The Murdaughs were, to our knowledge, involved with neither Princess Diana nor Marilyn Monroe.
Whatever their faults, the Murdaughs cannot possibly be the root of all evil in the world. Love of money is.

Reply
J Monday Top fan June 9, 2023 at 10:26 am

Fascinating that the evidence shows he was killed at the site where he was found. Praying that the Grand Jury will get it done-answers & results.

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SubZeroIQ June 9, 2023 at 10:25 pm

Who said “murder”? Not Keel, never. Eric Bland, yes, when they were raising over $100K on Go-Fund-Me; but not after that so-called “second autopsy,” which should have shut him up.
Vehicular homicide is not murder.
But I had MMP’s last episode running while multi-tasking just to bid them good-riddance. And lo and behold, they end with a nugget no one else noticed.
Sandi Smith, who has ZERO credibility with me, nonetheless said something which might have a grain of truth. Ready? She said Stephen was making his own medicines from herbs. Could be St. John’s Wort (anti-depressant); could be some psychedelic herbs; or plain old marijuana.
Of course, anything Stephen Smith ever said, did, or touched, gets glorified.
Hopefully, that Sanctimonious Sandi has had her fill of fame and will leave us alone after that grand jury.

Reply
J Monday June 10, 2023 at 9:44 am

SubZeroIQ,
Whatever point you are attempting to make could be done without attacking a grieving Mother. That is cruel and heartless. She deserves answers about what happened to her child and has suffered far too long without them. She has maintained that she does not care who or what-just the right answers. Your rant reeks of a self-serving personal agenda, as cold and empty as your name.

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 4, 2023 at 10:49 pm

And do YOU have any sympathy for Buster, a grieving son and brother?
As Buster’s father was being led in handcuffs, someone yelled, “Buster is next. Your son is next, Alex. Justice for Stephen Smith!”
What is the source of that hatred other than Sandi Smith’s LIES to the FBI as early as September 2016?
Now we know that Parker’s picked up on Sandi Smith’s FALSE accusations of BOTH Buster and Paul and had, not one, but three different private investigators follow Paul and videotape him as late as 3 days before his death.
My personal agenda is truth and REAL justice.

Reply
The Colonel June 10, 2023 at 12:34 pm

Will’s made it pretty clear that there is evidence that Smith was involved in, at the minimum, “unseemly activities”. While Stephen’s mother might deify her son, that is normal and not unexpected. No one else that I’ve seen has “glorified” Stephen. some writers feel obliged to go PC and point out his homosexuality as if that was causation for the lack of attention to his case. In truth, for six years, little to nothing was done about Smith’s death because he was a poor kid from a poor county, with a single mother with no political power, gay didn’t enter in to it.
Had DA “Elick’s” actions not been outed by his own son, Sandy would just be another mother wondering what happened will little recourse.
“Sanctimonious Sandy” deserves some answers, your bile aside.

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 4, 2023 at 11:01 pm

Sanctimonious Sandi has already caused the death of her own son with her indifference to his mothering needs, her blind ambition for him to “rule the world” despite his lack of looks or talent, and her pressure on him to pimp himself out.
And she probably caused the deaths of Paul and Maggie by some idiot who believed Sandi’s lies.
All Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) did is practice insurance fraud which would not have been possible had no other lawyer or judge been on it in some shape, form, or degree.
Sandi Smith has always had the REAL answers; she only refuses to accept them. And, in the process of her denial, Sandi Smith was willing to destroy the reputation of everyone who told her she was wrong: from Dr. Erin Presnell to Attorney Andi Savage, to volunteer Investigator Patterson, to Buster Murdaugh, to me.
I have no “bile,” only righteous indignation, against that.

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 4, 2023 at 6:21 pm

Because it is SOMEWHAT related; and because I want your readears to have easy access to the benefits of my thoughts, here is what I posted in response to Jen Wood’s story TODAY on Mark Tinsley “winning”:
NO, no, NO, Jen Wood!
Your account is anaccurate and leaves out THE MOST IMPORTANT DETAILS.
Tinsley’s pretense that Gregg Parker conspired to release the photo of Mallory Beach’s dead body to “weaken her family’s resolve” is as stupid as the pretense that Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) killed his wife and younger son to gain sympathy.
But I have since learned, to my amazement and terror, that stupidity becomes gospel if repeated often enough.
And YOU, Jen Wood, are one of leaders of repeating stupidity often enough (including that “family annihilator fits Alex to a T” which term found its way to Creighton Waters’ closing arguments) until it becomes gospel.

And here is the MOST IMPORTANT DETAIL: Sara Capelli was hired by Greg Parker to attack the Murdaughs, not the Beaches.
And here are Mark Tinsley’s EXACT WORDS from the transcript of the 16 March 2022 hearing before Judge Price at pp 12, line 21 to 14, line 7:
So we served subpoenas on the PI, Sara Capelli, as well as Wes Donahue. They are broad. Admittedly, they are broad. And specifically what I have asked for, among other things, is all of the video — as I understand Sara Capelli was videoing Paul Murdaugh in excess of a year. She video — she was videoing Paul Murdaugh within three days of his murder, and I’m told that these videos have been turned over to SLED. So we’ve asked for all of the photographs and all of the surveillance.
In addition to her surveillance, they had also caused a camera to be placed at the driveway to Moselle, so there’s video there. So we’ve asked for those.
We’ve asked for the time and the billing records, because those records will indicate when these activities started, parts of what they did, and, significantly, one of the things that Miss Capelli did was, she bought alcohol for some underaged people in Columbia in order to get information about Paul Murdaugh. And we believe that Parker’s reimbursed her for those charges.
There’s a photograph. This happened in November of ’20. This is Miss Capelli at a bar and I’m — I’ve got copies I’m willing to hand up.
THE COURT: Did anyone confirm that there was a camera placed at the entrance of the Moselle?
MR. TINSLEY: The AG’s office has confirmed that SLED has received some video that was taken by Miss Capelli.
THE COURT: All right.
MR. TINSLEY: Whether it was that camera or it was shot by a hand-held camera, I do not know.
THE COURT: All right.

Now, that was NOT in the boat crash case itself but in the so-called-conspiracy/outrage case arising from the boat crash case. AM’s lawyers, Harpootlian and Griffin, did NOT attend that hearing because NO MURDAUGH is named in that so-called-conspiracy/outrage case.

The bottom line is that Paul Murdaugh was being followed as late as 3 days before his murder AND a secret camera had been placed at the entrance of Moselle.

Why did that NOT surface in the AM’s double-murder trial? BECAUSE TINSLEY GOT HOLD OF IT FIRST and it was in no one’s interest, including Parker’s, to exonerate AM of the double murders OR to exonerate Buster of Stephen Smith’s death.
What a cruel world this is!

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 7, 2023 at 3:09 pm

People up to mid-twenties may GROW in height and weight NORMALLY.
Therefore, drivers’ license checkers are not, and should not be, required to check weight and height.
Think of what a nightmare that would be if you add this requirement just to put money in the greedy Mark Tinsley’s bottomless pockets.
You would not be able to cash a check at the drive-thru of a bank, or even inside a bank, unless you step out of your car and out of your shoes to get measured and take off any heavy clothes in winter to get weighed.
And even at that, you are not who you are if your hair has grayed or thinned from the time your driver’s license photo was taken.
All that because Mark Tinsley wants to rule our brains!
Some are working too hard to make Mark Tinsley seem reasonable and powerful.
Someone should fold Mark Tinsley’s circus of paper tigers.

Reply

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