South Carolina investigators have reportedly exhumed the body of Stephen Smith, as authorities have reopened their investigation into the gay teenager’s mysterious murder in 2015.
Smith’s body was exhumed on Friday for an independent autopsy, sources close to the investigation told WCIV.
The 19-year-old was found dead on the side of a road in Hampton County in July 2015. An original autopsy ruled his death as a possible hit and run accident. After nearly eight years, Smith’s death was officially ruled a homicide last month.
Interest in Smith’s death has been renewed since the double-murder conviction of Alex Murdaugh earlier this month. Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, has been linked to Smith and the two attended high school together.
Smith’s mother, Sandy, launched a successful fundraiser last month to conduct an independent exhumation and independent autopsy on her son. She linked Buster to her son’s death in a letter sent to federal investigators where she accused local law enforcement of botching her son’s death investigation.
However, South Carolina authorities have reportedly zeroed in on two 25-year-olds Patrick Wilson and Shawn Connelly, both of whom were originally implicated in Smith’s death case, Fitsnews revealed in a case file Thursday.
The duo were teenagers at the time and lived just a few miles from where the Smith’s mangled body was found — not far from the 1,700-acre Moselle estate where Alex Murdaugh murdered his wife Maggie and son Paul six years later.
Wilson’s stepfather tipped investigators off to the boys’ involvement in the death about five months after Smith was killed at the encouragement of Alex Murdaugh’s older brother, Randy Murdaugh.
Wilson allegedly told his stepdad that Connelly — who has a long history of traffic infractions and DUIs — was driving a vehicle that “struck and killed Stephen Smith.” His father then passed the information on to authorities at Randy Murdaugh’s insistence.
At the time of Wilson’s confession, he was facing attempted murder charges for an incident that was not immediately clear. Those charges were dropped shortly after by a solicitor who “served at the pleasure of the Murdaughs,” one Hampton historian told the outlet.
Within one year of Smith’s death, Randy Murdaugh filed two motor vehicle accident lawsuits against Connelly on behalf of clients, both of which were dismissed by Murdaugh-friendly judges.
Despite the confession, neither man was intensely scoured by the original investigative team. Police, who initially said the death “appeared to be a homicide,” ultimately ruled Smith was a victim of a hit-and-run.
Police have not publicly excluded the Murdaughs from their investigation — however one law enforcement source told FitsNews they have evidence the legal family is innocent of all ties.
Police said last week they “quickly” put Buster Murdaugh on their radar as part of the reopened investigation following rumors that he killed Smith in order to hide a secret love affair between the two baseball teammates.
Buster has “unequivocally” denied “vicious rumors” that he was involved in the murder as he continues to grieve the loss of his mother and brother and deals with the imprisonment of his killer father.