Attorneys who represent financial crimes victims of convicted double murderer and disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh are now representing the family of Stephen Smith, a Hampton County teenager who is believed to have been murdered in the summer of 2015.
Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, of the firm Bland Richter, teased an impending announcement on twitter Sunday morning regarding Stephen and his mother Sandy Smith. Bland and Richter both tweeted that an announcement would be coming Monday.
Bland and Richter represented the family of Gloria Satterfield, the former housekeeper and nanny for the Murdaugh family who died after slipping and falling at the Moselle property in 2018. Bland and Richter recovered millions of dollars for Satterfield’s two sons. Alex Murdaugh approached the brothers after their mother died and told them they could sue him for wrongful death and get some money from his insurance policy. However, Murdaugh never turned the money over to the Satterfield sons despite collecting $4.2 million in damages.
Bland and Richter also represent Alania Spohn and her sister, Hannah Plyler. They were former clients of Alex Murdaugh and former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte. Their mother and brother were killed in a car accident in 2005. Bland and Richter recovered millions for Spohn and Plyler.
Bland confirmed that he and Richter will now represent Sandy, who has long sought answers in her son’s death. Stephen’s body was found in the middle of Sandy Run oad in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015 in Hampton County, South Carolina.
Some investigators who arrived on the scene that morning believed Stephen had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. But an autopsy performed by Dr. Erin Presnell of the Medical University of South Carolina ruled Stephen died as the result of a hit-and-run.
Some South Carolina state troopers did not believe Stephen’s death was the result of a hit-and-run because of a lack of evidence at the scene, including broken parts from a vehicle. However, other investigative reports revealed that small blue chips of paint were found on Stephen’s clothing.
The news of a new set of attorneys representing Sandy comes after she raised more than $59,000 last week to have her son’s body exhumed so an independent autopsy could be performed.
Sandy told the Law&Crime Network’s Angenette Levy that if the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, exhumed her son’s body, then it was her understanding that SUMC would have to be involved in performing the second autopsy. Sandy said she wanted an independent finding and did not want SUMC involved.
Following the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh in June 2021, SLED opened an investigation into Stephen’s death — stating information had come to light during that investigation that prompted the agency to open an investigation into Stephen’s death. A spokesperson for SLED told Law&Crime “Progress has been made. The investigation into Stephen’s Smith death is active and ongoing.” However, no further details have been provided.
Sandy said SLED does keep her updated on the investigation but agents do not reveal many details. Rumors have circulated for years about what could have happened to Stephen. He was a nursing student working to pay for his schooling.
Stephen was openly gay. His mother told documentarians with HBO that her son told her before his death that he was involved with an older man and if anyone found out about the relationship, it would cause a lot of controversy in the county.
Sandy also said that Randy Murdaugh, the older brother of Alex Murdaugh, offered to represent her free-of-charge following Stephen’s death. However, she didn’t understand why she would need legal representation.
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Stephen’s death has been included in documentaries about the Murdaugh murders — which have included speculation that the Murdaugh family was somehow involved in his death. Buster Murdaugh, a former high school classmate of Stephen’s, has been mentioned during interviews conducted into Stephen’s death. However, Buster Murdaugh has never been named a suspect in Stephen’s death and many of those who mention his name cite “rumors”. In fact, Will Folks of FitsNews recently reported that sources have told him the Murdaugh family is not the focus of the investigation into Stephen’s death.
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