Buster Murdaugh Slams 'Vicious Rumors' Connecting Him to Stephen Smith's Death, Teen's Family Speaks Out

The statement from Alex Murdaugh’s only surviving son comes after Smith’s family announced plans to exhume his body and launch a new investigation into his suspicious death

Buster Murdaugh listens to his father Alex Murdaugh's recorded interview, where he describes a suicide attempt he planned, during Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Walterboro, S.C.
Buster Murdaugh. Photo: Joshua Boucher/The State via AP

Buster Murdaugh is vehemently denying he had anything to do with the mysterious death of South Carolina teen Stephen Smith in 2015.

"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 as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother," Buster, 27, said in a statement on Monday released through his attorney, Jim Griffin.

"I love them so much and miss them terribly," he wrote.

Following a sensational six-week trial that ended earlier this month, Buster's father, once-prominent Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh, was convicted of killing his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and his son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, and sentenced to life in prison.

Buster's mother and younger brother were found dead on the grounds of their sprawling hunting lodge in Islandton on June 7, 2021.

Alex Murdaugh rollout

"I haven't spoken up until now because I want to live in private while I cope with their deaths and my father's incarceration," said Buster, Alex's only surviving son. "This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false.

"I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family. I am requesting that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me."

Smith died in 2015. At 4 a.m. on July 8 of that year, a passerby found the 19-year-old nursing student's body on desolate Sandy Run Road in Hampton County, near the Murdaughs' estate.

Stephen Smith facebook no credit
Stephen Smith. Facebook

He was found three miles away from where his car had run out of gas, with deep gashes on his forehead, several local news outlets reported.

Officials said he was killed in a hit and run accident, which Smith's family has long disputed.

No arrests were ever made in the case.

In 2021, after the murders of Maggie and Paul, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division reopened the case based on information investigators learned from the Murdaugh murder case.

Smith's family and SLED have never implicated the Murdaugh family in Smith's death.

Buster Murdaugh and Smith were high school classmates.

Buster's statement came four days after Smith's family announced in a GoFundMe that they have raised enough money to exhume his body for an independent autopsy.

The GoFundMe had originally aimed for $15,000 in donations. As of Monday, the GoFundMe has raised more than $68,000.

"Our family is so very grateful to all of you who came together to help us in our fight for justice for Stephen," Sandy Smith wrote. "I could not have imagined when we began this fundraiser that it would take off the way that it did. Thank you for not allowing Stephen's story to be swept under a rug."

Smith 'Did Not Die on That Road,' Lawyer Says

In a virtual press conference on Monday, attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter announced that they are now representing the Smith family and are reinvestigating the case.

Noting that Smith was found with "loosely tied shoes still on his feet" and no skid marks or vehicular debris near his body, his mother, Sandy Smith, "has never accepted the conclusion of the cursory investigation following his death that concluded that his death was the result of a hit and run," Richter said.

The gas cap on Smith's vehicle had been removed, indicating that he was out of gas.

But he left his wallet in his car and did not use his cell phone to call for help, Richter said.

Richter announced that he and Bland are launching a new investigation "in the hopes of finding real answers to the questions that still persist."

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Bland and Richter represent the children of the Murdaugh's late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died in a what was initially deemed by authorities a "trip and fall" accident after Alex allegedly hid $4.3 million in an insurance settlement from her death from them. In June, Alex signed a confession of judgment awarding Satterfield's family the $4.3 million from his alleged scheme, WJCL reports.

"What we are going to do is start over," Bland said about the Smith investigation.

"We are going to hire experts who are going to come into case with a fresh set of eyes, with an open mind, without any preconceived notions," Bland said.

"This is not an Alex Murdaugh 2.0, or any Murdaugh 2.0," Bland said. "This is the Stephen Smith 2.0. It's all about Stephen."

"We think that he did not die on that road that fateful night," Bland continued. "We think that there was other reasons and other causes that caused his death."

Buster Murdaugh, the son of Alex Murdaugh, testifies during his father's trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., on February 21, 2023
Buster Murdaugh. Grace Beahm Alford/AP/Shutterstock

The attorneys are not charging the Smith family for their legal services, they said. They will use the money raised by the GoFundMe to pay for an exhumation for a private autopsy and for forensic experts to try to determine exactly how Smith was killed.

They will begin by petitioning the court to exhume Smith's body, they said.

In the meantime, Richter urged anyone with information about Smith's death to come forward.

He and Bland said they will hand over anything they learn in the investigation to SLED.

In a statement to CNN, SLED said it "has made progress in the death investigation of Stephen Smith. However this investigation remains active and ongoing."

SLED did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison and is appealing his conviction. He still faces a host of financially-related charges for allegedly embezzling millions from clients and his former firm.

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