Crime & Courts

Stephen Smith Investigation: ‘It’s Going To Take Somebody To Talk’

Mother of victim “discouraged,” according to her attorney …

Two weeks ago, our researcher/ reporter Callie Lyons filed this exclusive story on the arrest and conviction of 26-year-old Patrick Austin Wilson of Brunson, South Carolina on an alcohol charge.

Why would our audience care about a glorified open container violation?

Because Wilson remains a “person of interest” in the still-unsolved 2015 murder of Stephen Smith of Hampton, S.C. – a high-profile homicide which has repeatedly been associated with the powerful Murdaugh family.

Wilson was originally named – along with Shawn Connolly 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 this document (.pdf) back in March as part of our ongoing investigative work on this case. Shortly thereafter, we reported on Wilson and Connelly’s shared status as persons of interest in connection with the Smith homicide.

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? Widespread speculation that his death was somehow linked to the Murdaughs – which was the original theory espoused by Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith.

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Sandy Smith’s attorney – Eric Bland of Lexington, S.C. – provided an update on the case during a recent episode of a podcast called Surviving the Survivor.

“She suffers a rollercoaster of emotions,” Bland said on the show. “In the spring she was very elated and encouraged when SLED came out and said it was a homicide and they were going to devote all the resources that were allocated to Alex’s murder and they have.”

SLED actually 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 – the Murdaugh family’s 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.

Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh was convicted of those killings and sentenced to life in prison back in March. Murdaugh is now pushing for a new trial based on allegations of jury tampering by the Colleton County clerk of court. Those allegations are also being investigated by SLED.

Bland previously revealed that a statewide grand jury was investigating Smith’s death and predicted there would be major developments in Smith’s case by Labor Day – which has obviously come and gone.

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

“I thought there was going to be something by Labor Day but it appears obviously not,” Bland acknowledged on the podcast. “So (Sandy) is getting a little discouraged.”

Of interest? Bland claimed to be in regular contact with SLED chief Mark Keel on the case. He also shared new information he claimed to have obtained on the status of the inquiry.

(Click to view)

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

“I am confident that there are five people that SLED has focused on that they believe have information – the question is, are any of them talking?” Bland said.

Wait … five people?

This news outlet has been unable to verify any persons of interest in the investigation (other than Wilson and Connelly), however sources familiar with the status of the investigation said it was making “measurable progress” before the statewide grand jury.

Those sources declined to confirm Bland’s statements – indicating he may have confused individuals summoned to appear before the grand jury with persons of interest in the case.

Bland also referenced the recent arrest of Patrick Wilson on the Surviving the Survivor podcast.

“He had fled the state,” Bland said, referring to Wilson. “They found him across the state in Greenville South Carolina near the mountains, they brought him into Hampton County, he was tried and convicted – and he’s still in jail.”

Actually, jail records reveal Wilson was released from the Hampton County detention center shortly after his conviction.

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.

“I don’t know whether they think he has some information but it’s going to take somebody to talk – and I think then we’ll find out what happened to Stephen,” Bland said.

That much certainly seems accurate at this point …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Dylan Nolan)

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 (soon to be eight) children.

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5 comments

stephen henry Top fan September 13, 2023 at 2:30 pm

Who agrees with me that Alex Murdaugh’s activities on the night of Stephen Smith’s death should be thoroughly investigated? And I mean “THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATED, employing all the phone and GPS methodology that law enforcement used to track his movements on the night he murdered Maggie and Paul.

My personal belief has always been that Alex’s true motive for murdering Paul and Maggie was to eliminate them as potential witnesses (and eventual whistle-blowers) in his murder of Gloria Satterfield. (He knew that they would immediately stop defending him in the case once his financial crimes were fully exposed.) The idea that SLED has failed to generate any substantive tips about Stephen Smith’s death tells me that his murder was the work of only two individuals. If both of their last names were “Murdaugh”, it would explain why cover-up of Stephen’s murder has been so successful.

Reply
Goody3 Top fan September 13, 2023 at 4:39 pm

As in WHICH two ???

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stephen henry Top fan September 14, 2023 at 2:56 pm

As in which two ?? I thought I made this clear in the last two sentences of my comment: “If BOTH of their names were Murdaugh” … Perhaps you mean which two “Murdaughs”. That would be (1) Alex and (2) Buster … OR it could have been one of his brothers, one of whom was all over the crime scene the next morning for unexplained reasons. That was John Marvin, I believe.

The idea that SLED has failed to generate any substantive tips about Stephen Smith’s death tells me that his murder was the work of only two individuals. If both of their last names were “Murdaugh”, it would explain why cover-up of Stephen’s murder has been so successful.

Reply
Judy testerma September 17, 2023 at 2:23 pm

LEAVE BUSTER ALONE!!! HE HAS NOT HURT ANYONE. GIVE HIM SPACE TO GRIEVE!!!!!

Reply
Judy Testerman September 17, 2023 at 2:25 pm

LEAVE BUSTER ALONE!!! HE HAS NOT HURT ANYONE. GIVE HIM SPACE TO GRIEVE!!!!!

Reply

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