Stephen Smith’s mother announced her intent to exhume her son’s body for further examination in a GoFundMe account created earlier this month.
“We need a new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on facts. There was no debris in the road, and his injuries were not consistent with a hit-and-run,” states the fundraising page, which as of Sunday had raised nearly more than $46,000 over its initial goal.
The decision follows the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announcing in 2021 that it would reopen its investigation into Smith’s death due to new information it had gathered while investigating the double murder of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh that same year.
The mother and son were found fatally shot in June of 2021 on their Colleton County hunting property, not far from where Smith’s body was found six years earlier in Hampton County. The family’s prominent patriarch, Alex Murdaugh, was convicted in the murders last month.
SLED, which did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Sunday, declined to provide detail about its decision when reached by CNN.
“SLED has made progress in the death investigation of Stephen Smith,” the agency said. “However this investigation remains active and ongoing.”
Smith was found lying in a road on July 8, 2015, with blunt force trauma to his head. He was approximately three miles from his car, which was found abandoned with its gas tank open, authorities said at the time.
First responders at the scene thought his head injury could be from a possible gunshot wound, but the coroner’s office ultimately ruled his death a hit-and-run, despite multiple investigators dismissing this theory, according to copies of their testimony obtained by Spartanburg station WSPA.
“I saw no vehicle debris, skid marks, or injuries consistent with someone being struck by a vehicle,” wrote one investigator, according to the station. “After consulting with the [Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team], we see no evidence to suggest the victim was struck by a vehicle.”
For years after his death, tips also came in that linked Smith to the Murdaugh family, the Greenville News reported.
Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.