Crime & Courts

Stephen Smith Case: Person Of Interest Behind Bars

On an unrelated charge …

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One of the two persons of interest in connection with the still-unsolved 2015 murder of Stephen Smith of Hampton County, South Carolina is behind bars in the Palmetto State Lowcountry … albeit on unrelated charges.  Twenty-six-year-old Patrick Austin Wilson of Brunson, S.C. was taken into custody in Greenville County on Friday, August 25, 2023 where he was held for four days prior to a bench trial being held on Tuesday (August 29, 2023) in Varnville, S.C.

The case has nothing to do with Smith’s death, though … or the famed Murdaugh family which has been so often linked to it.

Wilson was charged in late December 2022 with transporting alcohol in a motor vehicle with a broken seal. Hampton County magistrate Gwendolyn Bampfield found him guilty of this charge and issued a commitment order – though at this point the details of his sentencing are unknown.

The S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – the agency investigating Smith’s murder – was not immediately available to comment on Wilson’s conviction on the alcohol charge.

Wilson was first named – along with Shawn Connolly, also of Brunson, S.C. – in a S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) “Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team” (MAIT) report on Smith’s death. Our media outlet exclusively published that document (.pdf) back in March. Shortly thereafter, we reported on Wilson and Connelly’s shared status as persons of interest in connection with the Smith case.

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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 subsequent investigation failed to come to a specific conclusion, fueling a barrage of wild tales.

Among them, there was widespread speculation that his death was somehow linked to the Murdaughs.

The investigation stalled for years over inconsistencies as to whether Smith was killed by a hit-and-run or other more nefarious means. One theory suggested he was struck with a baseball bat from the back of a moving truck.

Smith’s case has attracted international attention after it was prominently featured in the hit Netflix documentary, ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.’

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 in March. “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death.”

Still, the Murdaugh name peppered the MAIT report. For example: 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 was driving a vehicle which “struck and killed Stephen Smith.”

Who told him to share this information? Randy Murdaugh – the older brother of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.

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.”

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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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Both Wilson and Connelly lived in the area near where Stephen Smith’s body was found, and as we noted back in March “information obtained by SLED investigators has reportedly drawn a sharper focus on them as potential suspects.”

As of this writing, though, none of that information has been disclosed.

There has been a renewed effort to solve the Stephen Smith case following the murder conviction of Alex Murdaugh in March. To that end, Smith’s body was exhumed in April and a second autopsy was performed on it in search of evidence.

Attorney Eric Bland, who represents Stephen Smith’s mother, let it be known back in June that a statewide grand jury was considering evidence in the case. Bland predicted there would be answers to some longstanding questions about Smith’s death before Labor Day.

This news outlet has independently confirmed the existence of a grand jury investigation into Smith’s death – although we have no information on the investigation’s timetable.

As our founding editor Will Folks has often noted, the crime scene on Sandy Run Road is “a study in contradictions.”

(Click to View)

Investigators on the scene of Stephen Smith‘s murder on July 8, 2015 (SCHP).

“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.

The Smith case has been quiet for weeks.

In July, we reported on a TikTok video which claimed Wilson was on the run – and his roommate dead of an overdose – following information indicating the grand jury was looking to question him about the Smith homicide. However, the clip was removed from the platform after receiving perhaps more interest than was originally intended. The Tik Tok-er said Wilson and his roommate had been working at Jeff Lynch Appliances in Greenville, S.C.

Absent any official word from authorities, that information was largely treated as unfounded gossip.

The outcome of the grand jury investigation in the Stephen Smith homicide has yet to be made public. Meanwhile, Wilson has been charged with larceny over a the theft of tools and rifles from a Varnville home July 16, 2022. His trial on that charge is pending.

Stay tuned to this media outlet for the very latest developments in this unsolved murder mystery.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (Provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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10 comments

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VERITAS Top fan August 29, 2023 at 7:38 pm

Randy Murdaugh and John Marvin Murdaugh are two “fixers” for the Murdaugh family. Always on the scene “rendering aid” and being “generally helpful”. The fact that Randy Murdaugh injected himself onto the Stephen Smith scene and offered his “services” pro bono says something. The Murdaughs are connected to Stephen Smith, and people need to start talking, including the Murdaughs.

Reply
SubZeroIQ August 30, 2023 at 11:07 pm

There is ZERO veritas in your comment.
“Randy Murdaugh’s inject[ing] himself onto the Stephen Smith scene” is NOT a “fact” but one of the MANY self-contradictory lies by Sanctimonious Sandi Smith.
Think about it for a minute. Sandi claimed she saw Randy on the road while Sandi and her husband were on their way to the police station to identify the body.
That means the body had already been moved from “the scene” and the site was no longer an “active” scene. Otherwise, it would have been strange for Sandi to not visit the site or stop at it to see what was going on there on her way to the police station.
Also, did it occur to any one who insists it could not have been a hit-and-run ONLY because Stephen Smith’s were supposedly still on his feet that the same idiot who thought the skull fracture was a gunshot wound just unthinkingly put the shoes back on Stephen Smith’s feet to ensure they stayed with the body?
Nor did Randy Murdaugh offer his services pro bono. Most, if not all, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which is NOT “pro bono” although the client pays nothing UPFRONT. The lawyer gets the fee from the recovery.
Also, in her filthy and false September 2016 letter to the FBI, Sandi Smith wrote that, after the death of her husband (who WAS Randy Murdaugh’s client on an apparently totally unrelated workman’s compensation claim), Randy Murdaugh did not return Sandi’s calls. So, it was Sandi pursuing Randy, not the reverse.
I do not understand the cruelty of insisting that any one and every one named Murdaugh must be the cause of all natural, accidental, suicidal, and homicidal deaths in a five-county area.
I agree with you, though, that “people need to start talking.” But those people are SLED and whoever impanelled the grand jury. There should be transparency about the money from Sandi’s Go-Fund-Me page, about the report from the second autposy, and about the grand jury findings.
The innocent should not be left defenseless against false accusations.

Reply
Cynthia November 16, 2023 at 6:57 pm

If the Murdaughs weren’t involved, the case would not have been dropped so quickly. That did not happen for the 2 scapegoats they now have their eyes on. That happened for a Murdaugh. How about tracking activity on cell phones? How about determining if Buster was in a softball tournament that night? How about tracking Buster’s movement that night through his car data? How TF long is this going to take? Hasn’t the Smith family waited long enough? P.S. I also believe that Buster is supporting his father right now bc AM has dirt on him re: Stephen.

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Candy Jones September 28, 2023 at 7:08 pm

Oh please give us all a break,AM lied about being at the scene,they have him on recording with Paul’s phone,he’s so guilty, try getting a life and leave Sandy Smith alone she lost her son ,no one needs your ignorant comment’s in their time of great loss.

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Cynthia December 21, 2023 at 11:33 pm

Shawn Connelly, Patrick Wilson and Buster are all the same age and went to the same high school. Perhaps it was Buster plus Shawn and Patrick. Maybe that’s why Shawn and Patrick were not prosecuted 8 years ago. Just speculating… bc that’s all we can do until we are given some actual new information.

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Astonished Top fan August 30, 2023 at 3:32 pm

Geez, having alcohol with a broken seal in your car in Hampton County is a “jailable” offense?

Reply
SubZeroIQ August 30, 2023 at 11:09 pm

That’s probably the legalistic way of saying an open alcohol container in a moving motor vehicle.

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SubZeroIQ August 31, 2023 at 8:49 pm

Might as well post here what I posted on YouTube:
If that is really an SC DC policy, it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and, in Alex Murdaugh’s (“AM”) case, particularly CRUEL. Even if it were true that he murdered his wife and younger son, WHO are the living victims SC DC is trying to “protect” from hearing AM’s voice or point of view in the media?
AM’s older son, Buster, only sister (a professional victim’s advocate at that), and at least his brother Jim, ALL think AM is innocent of the murders. Even Maggie’s own sister and parents did NOT speak againt AM at his sentencing.
SC DC’s policies must be directed and limited towards the safety of the guards and other inmates and preventing escapes. SC DC has absolutely no right to limit an inmate’s speech that does NOT endanger anyone or promote escapes.
THE PUBLIC has a right to know. At least 25% of the public think AM is innocent of the murders. The media which got the documentary is doing a public service by presenting the other point of view.
And it is EXTREMELY hypocritical of those mouth pieces for those who sued AM and probably pinned the murders on him to gain advantage in the civil litigation to be decrying other media.
Also, if they were so jealous of lawyers’ ethics, look at South Carolina’s Rule of Professional Conduct 4.5. A lawyer should NEVER participate in criminal proceedings or professional disciplinary matters against another person to gain advantage in the civil litigation against that person. That rule has been unabashedly broken repeatedly by the very lawyers paying Mandy Matney, Kassidy O’Connell, and their ilk.
And even in other cases, say in a rape case, all the rape victim need do is not watch the media where the convict speaks. SC DC’s policy is stupid and UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Too bad even the ACLU has been so intimated from defending AM’s rights behind bars they would not sue to strike this policy down.

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SubZeroIQ September 4, 2023 at 11:25 pm

Prisoners are still humann beings with rights, subjugated to security concerns, but still rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled UNANIMOUSLY, with Justice Alito writing the opinion, that they even have a right to grow a 1/4 inch beard if they want to UNLESS the prison officials can prove that a beard that short can be used to conceal a weapon.
I do not know if a Seikh inmate would be allowed to keep his hair; but fortunately not many Seikhs commit crimes in America. Let’s pray it stays this way.

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Cynthis November 16, 2023 at 7:06 pm

On a related matter – although I feel AM is guilty of the murders of PM and MM, I believe Becky Hill did make inappropriate comments and suggestions to the jury. She was filmed saying that after the jury’s trip to Moselle she didn’t think it would take long to reach a verdict. She also strikes me as someone who likes attention and who would overstep the boundaries of her actual job.
AM actually does deserve to get a new trial.

Reply

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