For the Press and Standard
Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, of the law firm Bland Richter will be representing Sandy Smith, the mother of Stephen Smith, whose death was originally declared a hit-and-run. In the intervening years his mother has pressed for answers.
The law firm plans to petition the court to have his body exhumed, as well as bring in experts to help with the investigation. They believe he may have been killed in one location and his body moved another site.
Bland and Richter believe they will prove this exhumation is needed, beginning with a fresh new look at the body, as well as an independent determination.
“…it might be that the investigation in confirmatory of what has already been said about the cause of death,” said Richter. “We don’t think that’s true.”
The lawyers also plan on filing a civil suit at a later time in order to subpoena phone records and other evidence from others with whom Stephen Smith was in contact.
RESPONSE FROM BUSTER MURDAUGH
Prior to Bland and Richter’s news conference, Buster Murdaugh issued a statement, beginning with:
“I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media …” the remainder of that sentence continued with mention of his continued grief over his mother and brother’s deaths, and how he still missed them.
He also brought up he had remained silent to this point because he needs privacy as he copes with their deaths and his father’s incarceration. Also included was comment about the media’s focus on him:
“Before, during and since my father’s trial, I have been targeted and harassed by the media and followers of this story.” For him, it had gone on far too long, and he then summarized:
“These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephe and his death are false. I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.”
He closed with the request the media immediately stop publishing what he termed defamatory comments and rumors about him.
DEALINGS WITH ALEX MURDAUGH
This is not the first time the law firm has pursued Alex Murdaugh. In 2018, they recovered millions of dollars from the now-disgraced attorney who hadn’t turned over $4.2 million following the death of Gloria Satterfield, a housekeeper and nanny who died after having slipped and fallen. At the time, her sons had been told by Murdaugh they could sue him for wrongful death and get money from his insurance policy.
Bland and Richter also represented sister Alania Spohn and Hannah Plyler, former clients of Alex Murdaugh and former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Lafitte. They had lost their mother and brother in a 2005 car accident and had to rely upon the law firm to gain what was rightfully theirs, which was in the millions of dollars.
ABOUT THE STEPHEN SMITH CASE
On July 8, 2015, Stephen Smith’s body was found in the middle of Sandy Run Road in Hampton County. He was 19 years old at the time.
Some investigators believed a gunshot wound to the head was the cause of death. However, his death was ruled a hit-and-run by Dr. Erin Presnell, with the Medical University of South Carolina.
This was not in keeping with hit-and-run victims so believed several SCHP troopers, who cited a lack of evidence, such as debris that might have broken off from a vehicle following impact. Other reports showed small blue chips of paint on Stephen Smith’s clothing that supported the hit-and-run theory.
Now Sandy Smith is pressing for her son’s body to be exhumed, after having made public she has raised more than $59,000, which will go to having an independent autopsy performed; she is adamant the exhumation not be done by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), as she does not want the same agency(ies) involved.
Meantime, SLED has reopened an investigation into Stephen Smith’s death following the murder of Alex Murdaugh’s wife and one of his sons. She acknowledged the SLED has kept her updated, but that she does not receive many details.