What happened to Stephen Smith of Hampton County, South Carolina? How is his death connected to the Murdaugh family? Update in both cases.
Hours later, a pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC
) — Dr. Erin Presnell
— ruled that Stephen was killed in a hit-and-run accident, a decision which was met with confusion and skepticism by investigators and those who knew Stephen.
Investigators theorized that the mirror of a semi-truck hit Stephen’s head.
This decision to rule his death a hit-and-run appeared to skew the investigation by SCHP’s Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) – who typically investigate accidents, not murders.
In a report (below) by Todd Proctor
, a MAIT detective for SCHP, it was clear that investigators didn’t agree with the pathologist’s conclusion to rule the death a hit and run.
It was also clear from the report that there was tension between Presnell and SCHP. He said another investigator “had already had, from (his) understanding a heated conversation with her about this issue.”
On July 22, 2015, Proctor visited Presnell at MUSC to “get some sort of clarification” on the Smith case.
Proctor wrote that Presnell spoke in a “negative tone” and “basically called (him) a liar” when he said that he’d already spoken to Hampton County Coroner Ernie Washington
“I asked her why she stated that in the report and her answer was ‘because he was found in the road,'” Proctor wrote. “She had no evidence other than that for the statement being put in the report.”
Proctor said that he explained to her that law enforcement officers “had no evidence of this individual being struck by a vehicle.”
“As I was leaving she stated that the report was preliminary and it was my job to figure out what struck him, not hers,” Proctor wrote.
In August 2015, the coroner told Proctor that he did not agree with the final autopsy results in the Stephen Smith case.
The final autopsy report said that Stephen’s cause of death was blunt head trauma, motor vehicle crash, pedestrian vs. vehicle. It said the manner of death (which is either homicide, accident, natural, suicide, or undetermined) was still undetermined.
“The pathologist also states in the report, that in light of historical information along with the autopsy, these conclusions were made,” Proctor wrote. “To what historical information she possessed, I am unaware.”
Proctor then spoke with Kelly Greene
, Hampton County deputy coroner and a SLED agent — who both attended the autopsy — and said they didn’t make any reference to the pathologist about the victim being struck by a vehicle, only that he was found in the road.
Proctor also wrote in his report that Greene was fired sometime between July 22 – August 18 2019. According to the autopsy, Greene was responsible for evidence transfer in the case.
Stephen’s friends and family also disputed the autopsy report. Stephen was sharp and hyper-aware of his surroundings.A toxicology report showed that Stephen was completely sober at the time of his death.
“Stephen was not stupid,” Stephen’s friend told FITSNews. “There is no way that would happen to him. He would not let a car, let alone a truck, get close enough to hit him. That did not happen to my friend. He doesn’t deserve that. He doesn’t deserve people to think that.”
Stephen was beloved. He was an openly gay young man in the small town of Hampton, South Carolina, which wasn’t easy, but he made the best of it, his friends told FITSNews. He was bright and determined to make a better life for himself. He was in school for nursing at the time of his death.