Stephen Smith report reveals rape kit, search for gunshot wound

Posted at 3:37 PM, March 27, 2023 and last updated 3:51 PM, May 2, 2023


HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (Court TV) — Investigators never believed that Stephen Smith was the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

Documents detailing the investigation into the death of the nursing student who was found on a South Carolina road in 2015 show that the first investigators on the scene where Smith’s body was found quickly determined Smith had not been killed by a vehicle.

Investigative notes from the scene on July 8, 2015, say Smith was “deceased from some sort of blunt force trauma to the head.”

‘”I saw no vehicle debris, skid marks or injuries consistent with someone being struck by a vehicle. The victim’s shoes were loosely tied and both were still on. … We see no evidence to suggest the victim was struck by a vehicle.”

The investigative notes obtained by Court TV indicate that in the first 45 minutes of the Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation (MAIT) team’s involvement, officers believed Smith may have been shot in the head. An autopsy revealed Smith was not shot. Notes from multiple investigators in the case file reference the possibility of a gunshot wound.

Investigators in the case noted that there was no paint from a vehicle left on Smith’s clothing when he was found. Investigators also performed both a gunshot residue test and a rape kit on his body.

RELATED: Stephen Smith’s mother wants body exhumed; SLED reopens investigation

Drawings included in the investigative file depict how Smith’s body was positioned in the road, with notations that the only injuries found on his body were to his head.

Drawing shows where Stephen Smith's body was found on the road

A drawing included with investigative documents shows where Stephen Smith’s body was found on July 8, 2015. (MAIT)

The MAIT investigation said officers were first alerted to Smith’s body by a 911 caller, who described what he first thought was an animal and later determined to be “a white guy” in the road.

Investigators interviewed people in Smith’s life, including the man he was seeing at the time and his family. Smith’s then-boyfriend told investigators that he believed foul play was involved in his death.

Both Smith’s sister and mother told police that Stephen had been acting “secretive” for the two weeks prior to the incident, but were not able to identify any reason why they believed Stephen would be attacked. A witness interviewed by police said there may have been a green Jeep following Stephen the day before his death.

During an autopsy, a pathologist ruled Smith’s case a hit-and-run.

“She said that it was not a gunshot wound and no bullet or fragments were found during the X-ray and that it didn’t look like a bullet wound in her opinion, and that since the body was found in the roadway she could only theorize that it had to be a motor vehicle that caused the death. I asked if he had any other injuries, and she stated only a partial dislocated right shoulder. I asked her if she found any glass fragments or any other evidence of a motor vehicle and she stated no.”

Detectives who returned to the scene said they found no evidence of vehicle debris.

WATCH: Stephen Smith’s mother talks to Court TV

On March 22, 2023, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced it had re-classified Smith’s death as a homicide. In its version of events, SLED said its investigators were first contacted on July 8 to process the scene where Smith was found, but it was not otherwise involved in the investigation until 2021.

In 2021, SLED received new information about Smith’s death, and began reviewing the case file from the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Questions about Smith’s death were raised during the investigation into the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, for which Alex Murdaugh was tried and convicted. SLED has not outlined how the two cases may be connected.

Stephen Smith’s car, which was found along Sandy Run Road in Hampton County. (SLED)

The investigative file in Smith’s death mentions several names of people who were listed by various witnesses as having the potential to be involved in the case, among them Buster Murdaugh.

In the Netflix docuseries, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” private investigator Steve Peterson, who was hired by Smith’s mother, Sandy, said the people he had interviewed speculated that Buster Murdaugh was involved with Smith’s death.

Buster Murdaugh has repeatedly denied any involvement in the case and released a statement to that effect.

“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. I love them so much and miss them terribly. 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.

Before, during and since my father’s trial, I have been targeted and harassed by the media and followers of this story. 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.”

In an interview with Court TV’s Chanley Painter, Sandy Smith said she believes her son was beaten to death and his body was left in the road to make it appear like a hit-and-run. Sandy Smith started a GoFundMe campaign to exhume her son’s body and conduct an independent autopsy. The campaign raised more than $110,000 — well above its $15,000 goal.

WATCH: Stephen Smith’s Body to be Exhumed

SLED has asked anyone with information about Stephen Smith’s death to come forward and contact their tip line at 1-800-CALL-SLED or contact Renée Wunderlich at