Meanwhile, the July 8, 2015, death of Stephen Smith had gone cold. The 19-year-old’s body was found in the middle of a rural highway in Hampton County, dead from head trauma but the rest of him—shoes on, cell phone in his pocket—not showing signs of being hit by a car.
In the Netflix series, FITSnews’ Will Folks recalls getting a tip sometime after Paul and Maggie were killed to check out the highway patrol report on Stephen’s death. It turned out that Buster Murdaugh, Alex’s eldest son, came up dozens of times during the original investigation.
Former Wade Hamtpon High School science teacher Sam Crews recalls in the series that Stephen tutored Buster a bit, and both he and Morgan say there were rumors back in high school that the boys might have been more than friends. Which, according to Morgan, wouldn’t have sat well with the rest of the Murdaughs.
In the month after Stephen’s death, according to Hampton County Guardian reporter Michael Dewitt, there were rumors of a Murdaugh connection—but, he says, nothing ever happened.
South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced June 22, 2021, that it was reopening the case. There was no mention of the Murdaughs.
Buster, 26, was never named as a suspect or charged with any crime. The Murdaugh family has publicly denied any involvement in Stephen’s death. Murdaugh Murders notes that Buster and Alex didn’t respond to interview inquiries.