South Carolina state police say information gained in the investigation into the double murder of a prosecutor's wife and son now has them looking at a teenager's unsolved death. The State Law Enforcement Division confirmed Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into the 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose body was found on a road about 10 miles from the Murdaughs' 1,700-acre Islandton property. Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his 52-year-old mother Maggie were found shot to death on that property on June 7. Family members say Murdaugh had faced death threats after he was implicated in a 2019 boat crash that killed a 19-year-old woman, per the New York Times. He had yet to face trial on charges including boating under the influence resulting in death. Rumors spreading on social media suggested "Murdaugh was somehow also connected to the death of Smith," per the Daily Beast.
Smith was found dead on a Hampton County road on July 8, 2015. FITSNews describes "a 7.25-inch gaping hole on the right side of his forehead." Investigators initially said he may have been shot before deciding he'd been killed in a hit-and-run while getting out of his vehicle, which had run out of gas—a story Smith's mother didn't buy. In a 2015 interview, she said she believed several youth from prominent families had killed her son for being gay, per the Augusta Chronicle. "Rumors hinting at a cover-up and the possible involvement of one or more members of the Murdaugh family" had spread soon after Smith's death and again after Mallory Beach's death in the 2019 boating accident, per the outlet. (Read more double murder stories.)