Crime & Courts

Stephen Smith Investigation: TikTok Video Sparks Speculation

Proximity to ‘persons of interest?’

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Last month, this news outlet reported that a statewide grand jury in Columbia, South Carolina was actively investigating the 2015 homicide of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old from Hampton, S.C. whose death remains an unsolved mystery more than eight years after it happened.

Smith’s violent end attracted 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.’

In late May of this year, 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.

This news outlet confirmed the existence of the statewide grand jury investigation shortly thereafter.

Since then, though, very little information about the investigation has been released. However, a video posted on TikTok in June brought renewed attention to the case – and specifically the potential involvement of 25-year-old Patrick Wilson of Brunson, S.C. Along with 25-year-old Shawn Connelly – who also hails from Brunson – Wilson has previously been described by sources close to the inquiry as a “person of interest.”

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The TikTok video – which disappeared from the platform almost as soon as it was uploaded – was a short clip of a woman detailing a dinner conversation she had with a group of acquaintances.

After researching the claims she made, it appears there could be at least some validity to the story.

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)

An update in the death of Stephen Smith
Stephen Smith (File)

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.”

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THE TIKTOK VIDEO …

In the original TikTok video, a young woman described a conversation she overheard while out to dinner with friends. During the meal, a man at the table told the group about some manpower issues at his place of employment – Jeff Lynch Appliances in Greenville, S.C.

Per the video, the man claimed one of their deliverymen had stopped coming to work recently. When they inquired as to the reason why, his response took them by surprise. Per the video, the man claimed this person committed suicide via drug overdose after learning authorities were seeking out Patrick Wilson in connection with the Stephen Smith case.

The TikTok-er said a warrant had been issued for Wilson’s arrest – which as far as we have been able to determine is inaccurate, at least as stated in the video. A far more likely scenario is the grand jury issued a subpoena for Wilson. Given that grand juries operate in secret, however (with good reason) it is not possible to verify this through official channels.

Confusing, right? But not entirely implausible …

When following up on the rumor, a person working in the human resources office at Lynch confirmed some of the claims made in the video. The individual indicated Wilson was working there earlier this year. However, she refused to go into detail about the claims made in the TikTok about another delivery driver who was said to be Wilson’s roommate.

An interesting connection was made, however, when researching employees of Jeff Lynch Appliances. According to his Facebook page, David Wilson – Patrick Wilson’s father – is an employee of the retail store.

(Click to View)

A screen capture of David Wilson‘s social media profile. (Facebook)

As this news outlet previously reported, 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 were driving a vehicle which “struck and killed Stephen Smith.”

Who allegedly told Williams to share this information? Randy Murdaugh – Alex Murdaugh’s older brother. According to case notes contained in the MAIT report, Williams stated the reason he was passing this information along was “because Randy Murdaugh told him to call.”

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STEPHEN SMITH CASE FILES

gettyimages-172647106-1024x683.jpg

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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As our founding editor Will Folks has often noted, the crime scene on Sandy Run Road 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,” Folks noted in a recent report.

According to our sources, the statewide grand jury has heard “critical evidence” related to Smith’s case – 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.

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WHERE IN THE WORLD IS PATRICK WILSON?

While the claims made in the TikTok video cannot be conclusively verified, Patrick Wilson hasn’t exactly laid low since his name because a focus of news reports relating to the murder of Stephen Smith. On December 23, 2022, Wilson was pulled over in Hampton County for speeding and ticketed for having an open container. He was scheduled to appear in court on these charges February 15, 2023. However, he failed to do so.

As a result, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on February 16, 2023. Court documents indicate judge Gwendolyn Bampfield also issued a sealed sentence over these infractions.

(Click to View)

(S.C. Fourteenth Judicial Circuit)

Wilson is facing more serious charges related to an incident that occurred July 16, 2022 involving the theft of tools and two rifles from the Varnville home of Gene and Kathleen Davis. The stolen items are valued at more than $2,000 and less than $10,000, according to an arrest warrant out of Hampton County dated August 2, 2022.

The offense listed is larceny in the public index. On August 22, 2022, Wilson stated he was indigent and so the court appointed a public defender (by title only) as Wilson’s counsel. The larceny case has yet to be scheduled for trial.

As of today, Patrick Wilson’s location is unknown. It’s also unknown if he was subpoenaed by a grand jury and if so, if he appeared during their inquiry.

FITSNews Researcher Callie Lyons contributed to this report.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at jenn@fitsnews.com.

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16 comments

ricfits Top fan July 17, 2023 at 9:06 pm

Nice work, Jenn! Lots of loud mouthed speculators out there always claiming to be on top of all things Stephen Smith… meanwhile Jenn is quietly, efficiently, getting it DONE!

Reply
MaryContrary Top fan July 17, 2023 at 11:06 pm

Agree! Great job Jen!!

Reply
Done July 18, 2023 at 11:39 am

I’m sorry, but I really think it’s time for us all to move on from the Murdaughs in general. Obviously it was a fascinating case, and I followed it just like everyone else, but unless something legitimately big happens, I think it’s pretty much over. Boat case has been settled, murder trial has come and gone. When the financial crimes are over, then a story or two can probably cover that. This story is a perfect example of how the Murdaugh obsession has gone too far. As the author is revealing, it looks like this case, which definitely needs to be resolved, will most likely end up having very little if anything to do with the Murdaughs. I’m honestly surprised some slander (not sure that’s the right legal term) lawsuits haven’t been filed yet. The whole country seems to have an incredibly unhealthy interest in the whole Murdaugh thing. Interesting? Definitely. At some point it’s time to move on and put this in the rear view. I’ve always had an interest in true crime, but I’m actually starting to reevaluate my own thoughts about the genre. I’m honestly starting to feel it might be doing more harm than good. I think it’s starting to pose a threat to our justice system, probably thanks to technology. I don’t know. Just concerned about this whole topic in general.

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SubZeroIQ July 19, 2023 at 1:40 am

How and why should we “move on” after an innocent man has been wrongly convicted of the murders of his wife and younger son?
And but for the grace of God, the older son could have been wrongly convicted of Stephen Smith’s death falsely labeled as “murder.”
I think that, yes, there is a relationship between the three death: whoever yelled, “Your son is next, Alex. Buster is next. Justice for Stephen Smith!” as Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) was being led away wrongly-convicted and sentenced, or someone related to that heckler, or someone of like mind, is the real killer of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.
The murders had to be pinned on AM or else, as Mark Tinsley himself testified, the sympathy for AM would have made the boat crash case unwinnable for Mark Tinsley.
Parker’s agents were likely involved, too. The Paker-hired investigator, Sara Capelli, admitted feeling responsible for those murders in texts to Mark Tinsley.
And apparently, there was a camera at the driveway to Moselle the night of Paul and Maggie’s murders.
That is the real story; but no one else, not even Dick or Jim, has the courage to tell it.

Reply
WTH July 20, 2023 at 1:14 am

Well, excuse me. I basically meant everyone should leave the Murdaughs alone. I also essentially said I’m surprised there haven’t been slander suits ON BUSTER’s BEHALF against people who have spread rumors about him and smeared his reputation. I think Eric Bland is a complete hypocrite for standing behind Greg Leon and yet continuing to implicate Murdaughs in his pathetic podcast. I think that the whole true crime genre is preventing people, including Alex Murdaugh, from receiving a fair trial. Next time, try NOT snapping off the head of someone who agrees with you. Sheesh.

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SubZeroIQ July 20, 2023 at 6:55 am

I did not snap your head off; nor do I even like violent metaphors.
But, in the Catholic theology of my formative years, sins of omission are as culpable as sins of commission. And the Epistle of St. James says, “It is a sin unto him who knows to do good but does not.”
That is after Jesus Christ said, “I was a prisoner and you did not visit me … for what you do unto the least of my brethren you do unto me.”
So, with love and respect, I clarify to you that, FOR ME, moving on FROM Murdaugh is leaving a man I know to be innocent OF MURDERS to almost literally rot in a prison so hot he cannot keep his clothes on.
With my thanks for your attention, I reiterate that my beliefs are mine alone and I am not imposing them on any one, only preaching them.

Reply
Kim Lanier July 18, 2023 at 7:00 pm

You go Jenn!!!!

Reply
WTH July 20, 2023 at 1:13 am

Well, excuse me. I basically meant everyone should leave the Murdaughs alone. I also essentially said I’m surprised there haven’t been slander suits ON BUSTER’s BEHALF against people who have spread rumors about him and smeared his reputation. I think Eric Bland is a complete hypocrite for standing behind Greg Leon and yet continuing to implicate Murdaughs in his pathetic podcast. I think that the whole true crime genre is preventing people, including Alex Murdaugh, from receiving a fair trial. Next time, try NOT snapping off the head of someone who agrees with you. Sheesh.

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 20, 2023 at 6:55 am

I did not snap your head off; nor do I even like violent metaphors.
But, in the Catholic theology of my formative years, sins of omission are as culpable as sins of commission. And the Epistle of St. James says, “It is a sin unto him who knows to do good but does not.”
That is after Jesus Christ said, “I was a prisoner and you did not visit me … for what you do unto the least of my brethren you do unto me.”
So, with love and respect, I clarify to you that, FOR ME, moving on FROM Murdaugh is leaving a man I know to be innocent OF MURDERS to almost literally rot in a prison so hot he cannot keep his clothes on.
With my thanks for your attention, I reiterate that my beliefs are mine alone and I am not imposing them on any one, only preaching them.

Reply
WTH July 20, 2023 at 1:38 pm

I also believe he is innocent. I think his trial was a joke. I just don’t understand why you have to be so combative. He needs all the help he can get, so the people who believe in him should stick together. I have a feeling you know him personally (which I do not), so I hope you’re in a position to be able to help him. And now I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of hate comments from other people since I clearly stated my belief in his innocence. But, as you stated above, I’m entitled to my opinion. You wouldn’t know it sometimes, but it’s a free country.

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SubZeroIQ July 20, 2023 at 8:40 pm

I do NOT know him personally AT ALL.
What I DO know PERSONALLY is what it is like to be falsely accused and maliciously prosecuted. Only in my case, thank God, I defended myself without a lawyer and was ultimately acquitted WITH prejudice, meaning they cannot bring those false charges against me ever again.
So, did they leave me alone after that? Noooooooooooo. They never forgave me for being innocent and proving it.
The realty of the system is not “innocent unless and until proven guilty” but “guilty even after being proven innocent.”
None other than Judge Clifton Newman presided over my jury trial in Richland County, SC, on 22-26 February 2010 (yes, 13.5 years ago) and in the middle of it, he complimented me as “most pleasant and gracious” and “not frivolous at all” and “not in any way offensive.” These are all in the transcript of that trial.
But to prevent from defending myself without a lawyer and defeating other false criminal charges against me, they got edicts that I may not represent myself without a lawyer. Ironically, Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) still can do so if he wants to.
Another 3.5 years later, exactly on Solar Eclipse Day, I gently reproached Judge Clifton Newman, “You, out of all judges, should have stood up for me. I was in your court for 5 days.” His answer was, “You were doing a good job standing up for yourself; and the jury agreed with you.” That is in another transcript.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the same people who prosecuted AM were involved in prosecuting ME. And they used on me the same tactics they used on AM.
I call it “Oh! The sky is blue and the sun rises from the east; therefore, the defendant must be guilty.”
In my case, I was falsely accused of harassing my neighbor tenant and my landlady. That could have gotten me 36 years under some warped theories of enhancements. And I have no doubt that, God forbade, Judge Clifton Newman would have given me EVERY DAY of those 36 years along with a stern lecture had my jury gotten it wrong.
AND I KID YOU NOT. The Prosecution ACTUALLY said that part of my supposed “crime” is looking out of my own window when that neighbor was causing a commotion with a third neighbor under my window.
So, AM loves his wife and called her “Mags” as did her close friends and her sister. Therefore, AM must have lured his wife to Moselle to murder her.
I am a medical doctor with additional training in Pathology although I am NOT a board-certified FORENSIC pathologist.
Still, I know for sure from the autopsy reports that Paul and Maggie did NOT die before AM left Moselle for Almeida that night.
It also came out in the boat crash case that Parker’s agents had placed a secret video camera at the Moselle driveway; and SLED knows about it.
All I can do for AM, just as for others I know to be innocent, is shed light upon the exculpatory evidence others do not understand.
If YOU can help clarify my explanations, I would greatly appreciate it.
God bless.

Anonymous July 20, 2023 at 10:43 pm

Wow. I am so sorry you went through that. Too bad this is a public forum so we can’t speak openly – so many of the things you said about your own experience sort of explain (not sure that’s the right word) some of the issues that appeared off to me while watching his trial. I’m sorry if I misunderstood some of the things you said. I suppose that’s the trouble with electronic communication. You certainly seem like a strong person, and I wish you the best. God bless you too.

WTH July 20, 2023 at 10:45 pm

That was my comment above ??. Hit submit before entering information.

WTH July 20, 2023 at 1:15 am

Whoops! Replied to the wrong comment. My apologies!

Reply
SubZeroIQ July 22, 2023 at 6:30 pm

On FITSNews WIR today, another commenter mentioned “the hand of one is the hand of all” in criminal law.” This post is NOT against THAT COMMENTER but against that stupid and unexamined “principle.” I think it is relevant to solving Stephen Smith’s death AND I would appreciate YOUR or Dylan’s reply to it.
“The hand of one is the hand of all” is a VERY BAD idea in criminal law.
That is what happens when ALL they teach them in law school is NOT “how to THINK” but how to repeat by rote what some ancient British judge wrote.
“The hand of one is the hand of all” prevents the solving of crimes and reduces confidence in convictions.
Someone who was just the getaway driver, or who even drove someone to or from the scene of a crime WITHOUT even KNOWING that a crime had been committed there, should NOT be held as culpable as the actual shooter for example.
That “hand of one is the hand of all” is pure INTELLECTUAL LAZINESS by police and prosecutors; they just don’t want to spend the time and effort to apportion responsibility.
It often happens that the getaway driver gets life without parole or even the death penalty, while the actual shooter plea-bargains for the 30-year minimum or even some reduced manslaughter charge.
That happens because the real shooter knows there is so much evidence (gun residue, DNA, fingerprints, etc.) against him/her, while the accessory naively goes to trial thinking society is too decent to paint all with the same brush.

I remind you, if you want to be a uniter, not a factionalist: Democrats should not try to solve every problem by throwing money at it; and Republicans should not try to solve every problem by throwing prisons (or deportations) at it.

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SubZeroIQ July 30, 2023 at 11:59 pm

FITS, even though some pretend I subscribe to FITSNews, I would not give you a penny because you have no scruples against the framing the innocent, starting with trying to frame Nikki Haley for trying to rape you in the back of her Cadillac, then trying to frame Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) for “choking” a willing prostitute whom you call “sex-trafficked,” to trying to frame Buster for Stephen Smith’s death, to helping frame AM for his wife and younger son’s murder, to now trying to frame the self-made and hard working Judge Manning and defense attorney Todd Rutherford for doing the right thing in promoting prison safety.
Nonetheless, I give you what is more precious than money (examples of my courage and integrity for your children to learn from) and indirectly more money than you can get from one subscription (my brilliant and click-attracting comments).
And here is one more: the proportionality of Russell Laffitte’s sentence, and that of AM for any financial crimes of his has to start with the sentence of RICHARD J, BREIBART, who did much worse to his clients but got to serve under four years in Club Fed.
The main difference I see is that BREIBART used his loot FROM HIS CLIENTS to donate to politicians while AM kept the loot FROM INSURANCE COMPANIES to himself or shared it only with the insurance defense lawyers who rolled over and made the insurance companies pay unjustified millions for dublious claims.
If the Satterfield and Eric Bland are any indication, SOME of AM’s clients have no scruples against defrauding insurance companies so long as they share (or get all) the loot.
Respond to this if you dare.

Reply

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