Head Injury Stephen Smith Sustained Was Consistent With Gunshot Wound, Investigators Said in Case Notes
An investigator for the South Carolina Highway Patrol says that he thinks Stephen Smith's body was staged the night of his death in July 2015.
In early June, a son and mother, both members of a prominent South Carolina family were slain at their family's home in a horrific double murder. State investigators have released scant information on the case –– including an 18-page redacted report with nearly 8 pages fully redacted.
Since the murders of Paul Murdaugh, 22, and Maggie Murdaugh 52, the State Law Enforcement Division, the agency that has been investigating the homicides, announced that it will now be investigating the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith.
The 19-year-old was found lying in the middle of the roadway with severe head trauma in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015. A man driving on the road that evening called police just before 5 a.m. to report a person lying in the roadside, according to police reports.
The driver reportedly told police he first thought Smith was an animal, but took a second glance and noticed "a white male lying in the middle of the road."
At first, when police arrived, they suspected his death was a result of a hit-and-run. Detectives speculated a truck had side-swiped him with a rearview mirror as Smith walked along the dark road, according to incident reports.
But Smith's family refuses to believe it was an accident. He often had car troubles, but they had trouble imagining him walking in the middle of the road, his family told Inside Edition Digital in an interview.
Smith's body was found nearly three miles from where his car was left and case notes said that "the gas tank door was open and the gas cap was hanging on the side of the vehicle."
Multi-Action Disciplinary Team case notes obtained by Inside Edition Digital through a Freedom of Information Act request offer insight from the night Stephen Smith was killed. MAIT is a division of the South Carolina Highway Patrol unit that initially responded to the scene.
The notes reveal the timeline of investigative measures taken from the moment Smith's body was found July 8, 2015, through December of that year.
MAIT investigators cited multiple times in case notes and incident reports obtained by Inside Edition Digital that Smith's death appeared to be a homicide –– and said the wound on his skull to be consistent with a gunshot wound.
However, a pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina ruled the death caused by "blunt head trauma sustained in a motor vehicle crash," according to the final autopsy report. The doctor ruled out a gunshot wound and said it was possible the injury was a result of the impact from the side-view mirror of a semi-truck. The Hampton County Coroner's office authorized the autopsy.
But a former state trooper who worked on Smith's case told Fox News last week that he still believes Smith's death might have been a homicide, and not a vehicle collision like the autopsy report said.
"At that point, I had been working highway patrol for 15 years, I've worked several hit and run collisions, and nothing about this case from the very beginning pointed towards it being a hit and run," Inv. Todd Proctor told Fox News in an exclusive television interview.
"As any investigator [does], you go off of the evidence. there was no evidence that pointed towards this being a hit and run or a vehicle even being involved in it," he continued. "There was no evidence of this being a hit and run. It looked like it was more staged like possibly the body had been placed in the roadway."
He also said SLED has not contacted Proctor to assist in their investigation at the time of the interview.
Similar to the homicide case, SLED has revealed little information to the public since confirming it is reopening the case to the family, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.
A spokesperson confirmed the investigation into the 2015 hit-and-run case, citing "the information gathered in the Murdaugh homicide investigation." No additional details were provided.
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