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HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC/Gray News) - Attorneys representing the family of Stephen Smith said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has ruled the death as a homicide, WCSC reports.Smith was 19 years old when he was found dead on the side of Sandy Run Road in Hampton Count...
Smith was 19 years old when he was found dead on the side of Sandy Run Road in Hampton County, South Carolina, in 2015.
“We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,” attorney Eric Bland said in a news release Tuesday night.
The family launched an online fundraiser March 9 for Smith’s body to be independently exhumed and examined. As of Tuesday night, that fundraiser, which set a goal of $15,000, had raised more than $80,000.
The money raised will be used to exhume the body, conduct the autopsy and hire experts who can investigate any findings. The attorneys estimated an exhumation could cost between $10,000 and $25,000, and some expert trial witnesses can cost up to $600 or $700 per hour. They vowed there would be “full transparency” on how the money will be spent.
Attorney Ronnie Richter said that it would be “a significant setback” if the courts denied a motion to exhume the body.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division re-opened the case in June 2021, shortly after the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh based on information discovered during that initial investigation.
In the year and a half since, no new details have come to light, but SLED reports it has “made progress” and the case remains “active and ongoing.”
No suspects have ever been officially named in the teen’s death but the Murdaugh family name comes up several times in investigative files.
Buster Murdaugh, the surviving son of Alex Murdaugh, released a statement Monday morning in response to ongoing rumors that he was involved in Smith’s death.
“I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family,” he said in the statement.
Documents show investigators fielding tips about the Murdaugh family in the days and months following Smith’s death.
You can read the full statement from the Bland Richter law firm here.
SLED has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Copyright 2023 WCSC via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Imagine taking your car to be repaired, only to lose that car after the repair shop goes up in flames.That's what happened to Scott Brown, whose car was damaged in a fire at the Sandy Run Repair Shop on North Main Street in Columbia earlier this year.The fire happened back in February, but the scorched building is still stand...
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Imagine taking your car to be repaired, only to lose that car after the repair shop goes up in flames.
That's what happened to Scott Brown, whose car was damaged in a fire at the Sandy Run Repair Shop on North Main Street in Columbia earlier this year.
The fire happened back in February, but the scorched building is still standing and so are what's left of Brown's car. His car was towed to Sandy Run Towing just hours before the fire. Brown says he has not gotten any help with the costs.
"I feel like I was thrown out into the cold, actually it's the heat. I feel like I was thrown under the bus in this incident," Brown said.
He says he does not blame Sandy Run Towing for the fire, only how they have handled everything ever since.
"Probably about a year before my grandmother passed away, maybe nine months, she gave me this 2004 Suzuki XL7," Brown said.
Brown says the car held sentimental value but started to have brake issues earlier this year.
"No, I'd never used them. I'd heard of them. I decided to let my friend, who works for Sandy Run Towing, tow this vehicle over to them," Brown said.
Greg Holman, now living out of state, was once a Sandy Run Tow Truck driver.
"He's a friend of mine. So, I picked his car up at work and took it to the shop because he needed front rotors and breaks put on," says Holman.
An expected short visit for Scott's car turned into a much longer stay than expected.
"Our mechanic didn't get to it until right around 5 o'clock, and the brakes were in stock across the street, but not the rotors. We had to wait until the next day, and then that night it burned," Holman said.
"My cousin was watching WIS, and he called me and wanted to know 'wasn't your car at Sandy Run? Don't you know that they burnt to the ground? I've been getting a terrible run around from insurance companies and it seems like no one wants to take the blame," Brown said.
WIS tracked down the repair shop owners, operating a new business just blocks away. Mike Wallace is the co-owner of Sandy Run Towing.
"The insurance company refused to pay us because they say it's a building problem, which would fall under the responsibility of the owner of the builder," Wallace said.
He says he and his co-owner own the repair shop, not the building.
"They're going to have to get it from the owner some kind of way. Her name is Shelia Johnson, she lives in Prosperity. She doesn't have insurance," Wallace said.
Brown says while he did have insurance, "my insurance is with USAA and through them, I only had liability coverage. Since I didn't have full coverage on the vehicle, they really couldn't help me out in any way. I'm going to have to be forced to contact an attorney to recoup what little money I can."
"I can understand their frustration. Believe me. That's why I'm giving them the information, who to go after to take care of whatever they need to take care of," says Wallace.
The city has given notice for the owners to repair the property or secure it. Otherwise, steps will be taken to have the building demolished.
As for the owner, Shelia Johnson, her address in Prosperity is written on the notice from the state posted on the front door. It is the only contact information WIS has been able to find for her.
Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved.
Residents say there is limited recreation in the area, leaving many with no choice but to go to neighboring cities.CALHOUN COUNTY, S.C. — Heyward Park is now open in Calhoun County.Carolina Eastman was the original owner, and it is now owned by the Heyward Community Development Alliance at Heyward AME Church.“...
Residents say there is limited recreation in the area, leaving many with no choice but to go to neighboring cities.
CALHOUN COUNTY, S.C. — Heyward Park is now open in Calhoun County.
Carolina Eastman was the original owner, and it is now owned by the Heyward Community Development Alliance at Heyward AME Church.
“Others wanted to do other things but my appeal to Carolina Eastman was you built it for the community, give us a chance to keep it in the community," said Reverend Harold Conyers of the Heyward Community Development Alliance.
“The plan was to get this park so we could help the youth in our area to have a safe place to come and just enjoy the beauty of nature," said Angie Nelson a board member of the church.
The group partnered with Calhoun County to bring the park to life. It's located minutes away from the church. Joan Gray is the secretary.
“It’s a blessing to the community to be able to come out whenever we want to, to the great outdoors so I’m very excited about the park being open," said Gray.
The park has a basketball court, tennis court, baseball field, horseshoe pit, a two-acre pond, and a pavilion.
Residents say there is no limited recreation offered in the area, leaving them with no choice but to go to neighboring cities like Columbia or Cayce.
County officials say the park was primarily funded through grant funding and the penny sales tax.
“Folks from Calhoun County and really folks from all over will be able to come and enjoy this very special place that has a very unique beginning," said Representative Russell Ott.
Calhoun County Council voted no to a proposed 170-home development on 11 acre site.SANDY RUN, S.C. — A win Monday for some Sandy Run residents hoping to keep their rural community, rural for a little while longer.Nick Stabler, Chief of the Caw Caw Fire Department, has been a resident of Sandy Run for the majority of his entire life. He says he is happy to know that his neighborhood will not change after the ...
Calhoun County Council voted no to a proposed 170-home development on 11 acre site.
SANDY RUN, S.C. — A win Monday for some Sandy Run residents hoping to keep their rural community, rural for a little while longer.
Nick Stabler, Chief of the Caw Caw Fire Department, has been a resident of Sandy Run for the majority of his entire life. He says he is happy to know that his neighborhood will not change after the Calhoun County Council voted no to a 170-home development right in his backyard.
"I live on a farm, my grandson and his wife live a mile from me... and my granddaughter lives 2 miles from me. I get to see my grandchildren every day and I just like that type of life," Stabler said.
Stabler like other residents has known for years that some kind of housing development would come to Sandy Run. Even after the vote Monday to deny the 170 homes, Calhoun County Councilman, John Nelson says some sort of development is still possible.
"The developer could come back to us again with another proposal that reworks this, but hopefully, it follows our codes and ordinances," Nelson explained.
According to a zoning ordinance in Calhoun County, each home in Single-Family Residential Zoning must be on a quarter of an acre and the current proposal from gateway one development places the homes on 8400 square foot lots which are less than the quarter acre requirement.
If the developer comes back with another revised proposal for the 11 acres that are designated for development, their plan would it will have to go through another review process by the planning commission and Calhoun County council which could take a few months.
The next county council meeting for Calhoun will be Monday, September 26 where the council will continue to review the MUSC and Regional Medical Center partnership.
HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The mother of Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a rural Hampton County road in 2015, spoke publicly Monday about opening an independent investigation into her son’s death.Smith, 19, was found on Sandy Run Road in July 2015. His family said they have more questions that need to be answered about the case and hop...
HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The mother of Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a rural Hampton County road in 2015, spoke publicly Monday about opening an independent investigation into her son’s death.
Smith, 19, was found on Sandy Run Road in July 2015. His family said they have more questions that need to be answered about the case and hope that a new set of eyes might reveal more information about what happened that summer night.
“Oh, he was an amazing child,” Sandy Smith recalled. “He was awesome, was brilliant. He loved animals, he loved to fish; he loved his family.”
She recalled hearing about a deadly accident on July 8, 2015. “At first, I heard it on the radio- not his name, but a body had been found. And when I called Stephanie, she said he didn’t come home that night, so I kind of felt it.”
And she’s had many questions since then.
“First of all, I want to know who did it – then I want to know why. And the autopsy, I want to tell me what actually happened,” she said.
Smith’s death was ruled a hit-and-run. But the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division later reopened the investigation after they said additional information came to light in wake of the deadly shootings of Paul and Margaret Murdaugh in June 2021.
“I knew it wasn’t a hit-and-run from the beginning,” she said. “I told them it’s not hit-and-run; he would not have been in the road.”
Stephen’s car was found about three miles from his body.
Sandy has raided more than $65,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for an independent investigation that will include her son’s body being exhumed, an autopsy performed, and a medical examiner that must be present throughout the process.
Attorney Ronnie Richter does not believe a hit-and-run makes sense in this case.
“He’s in the middle of the roadway- he suffered no apparent injuries from the waist down. His loosely tied shoes are still on his feet. He’s three miles from his vehicle and he had a cellphone with him, and he never attempted to call for help if his car did in fact become disabled three miles away… it just makes no sense,” he said.
Smith shared her gratitude for those who have donated to the cause and supported her mission from the beginning. “I have a food team. We have the funds to start off with and do what we have to do to find justice for Stephen,” she said.
Attorneys Ronnie Richter and Eric Bland hope to petition a judge in the next 10 days to allow for Stephen’s body to be exhumed.