Police Reopen Investigation Into Teen's Mysterious Death After Lawyer's Scandal

Mason Joseph Zimmer
Stephen Smith fishing in photo shown during memorial service by his grave
Facebook | Standing For Stephen

Fallen teen Stephen Smith's mysterious death is now being treated as an unsolved case thanks to a murder investigation into disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh's conduct.

Nothing in life is as devastating as learning that a loved one has been murdered and that's especially true if that murder remains unsolved for years or even decades.

Understandably, such cases often find the victim's family on a desperate quest for justice. And while it can be easy for this search for answers to seem hopeless, it's also true that we never really know what subtle detail could end up serving as the final piece of a tragic puzzle.

Although investigators have yet to make that discovery in the case of one slain South Carolina teen, his mother and her supporters are now feeling a renewed sense of hope in the wake of his long overdue memorial ceremony.

On July 8, 2015, 19-year-old Stephen N. Smith of Hampton County, South Carolina was found dead with deep gashes in his head in the middle of a dark county road.

Fallen teen Stephen Smith with neutral facial expression in selfie
Facebook | Standing For Stephen

According to People, his death was initially ruled as a hit-and-run yet appeared mysterious from the beginning since his car was discovered three miles away from his body with the gas cap off.

As NBC News reported, his wounds are also now being considered inconsistent with the official report that he was struck by a passing car's mirror.

Smith was studying to be a nurse at the time of his death and his father would pass away three months later.

His mother Sandy described this second fatality as being the result of a "broken heart" and has been searching for answers into what she believes to be her son's murder for seven years.

Stephen Smith fishing in photo shown during memorial service by his grave
Facebook | Standing For Stephen

As the Smith family's attorney Mike Hemlepp said to People, "Sandy and I both believe that this was a murder. We've made no secret about what our goal is. Whoever did this to Stephen should go to prison. If anyone helped cover up what happened, they should be held accountable."

Sadly, Smith's grave also spent years without a headstone. But just as a grassroots group known as #StandingforStephen has worked in recent months to rectify that, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has also decided to renew investigations into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Apparently, information regarding Smith's death was uncovered during an investigation into the conduct of disgraced personal injury attorney Alex Murdaugh, who now stands accused for the shooting deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul (pictured).

Former South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh standing next to wife Maggie and son Paul
Facebook | Billie Jean Shaw

Although it remains unclear to the public as to what this information was, NBC News did report that Smith and Paul's older brother Buster were in the same graduating class and that Smith's body was discovered 15 miles from the Murdaugh estate.

Smith's death is also just one of several mysterious or accidental deaths with supposed links to the disgraced lawyer's family.

In the words of Smith's mother, "While the many questions about my son's death remain, this action gives me hope that we will get justice for my Stephen."

Days after Murdaugh was officially indicted, a memorial service was held for Smith at Gooding Cemetery on July 17.

recently installed headstonefor slain teen Stephen Smith after its unveiling at Memorial ceremony
Facebook | Standing For Stephen

As we can see here, this ceremony saw the unveiling of a new headstone that was paid for by the over $40,000 raised by #StandingforStephen. According to a GoFundMe campaign supporting the group, this money also went towards establishing a scholarship fund in his name and towards his mother's legal fees.

The group's founder Susanne Andrews expressed gratitude for those who came together to support Smith's family after years of silence from their community.

As she put it, "This is about a child that deserves to be memorialized and commemorated, and a mother to have support that she hadn't had."

h/t: People