Cops immediately suspected South Carolina teen Stephen Smith’s 2015 death “was a murder” — and quickly had Buster Murdaugh on their “radar,” according to new reports.
The revelations came after Tuesday’s confirmation that the suspicious death is being investigated as a homicide — a day after murderer Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son denied “vicious rumors” he was involved in it or had been intimate with his gay classmate.
Although Smith’s death was initially dismissed as a hit-and-run accident, one of the first officers at the scene claimed Tuesday that it was immediately clear that wasn’t the case.
“Before I could get out the car good, the coroner said, ‘Oh no, that’s not a wreck — that’s a murder,’” since-retired Trooper Thomas Moore told WCIV.
“I mean, I definitely think he was murdered,” Moore said in an interview alongside the dead teen’s mother, Sandy Smith.
Accident reports obtained by CNN showed that there were “no vehicle debris, skid marks, or injuries consistent with someone being struck by a vehicle.”
Moore said he quickly reached two working theories when he saw Smith’s body in the middle of a road just a few miles from the Moselle estate where Alex Murdaugh would later gun down his wife, Maggie, 52 and their 22-year-old son Paul.
“Either he was murdered there, or he was murdered elsewhere and dropped there,” Moore told the local station.
If police chiefs and the coroner “had done their job that day, I don’t think we would be here today,” Moore said of renewed focus on the 8-year-old assumed homicide.
Smith’s mom has said that one of Alex Murdaugh’s brothers called to alert her to her son’s death even before it was confirmed to her by officials.
The Murdaugh name was mentioned dozens of times by both witnesses and investigators during the initial South Carolina Highway Patrol investigation — including that of Buster, now 26, according to the documents obtained by CNN.
“Buster was on our radar,” then-Trooper Todd Proctor told one witness during an interview in the case. “The Murdaughs know that,” he said.
South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed to CNN that the case is being investigated as a homicide and that there were no reasons for it to have been deemed a hit and run.
The network stressed that authorities have not mentioned a connection between the current investigation and the once-powerful Murdaughs.
However, the investigation into Smith’s death was only re-opened in 2021 “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation” of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, SLED said at the time.
Lawyers for the Smith family also said that SLED Chief Mark Keel told he was “waiting until the Murdaugh [double-murder] trial was over before making this announcement.”
The delay was “out of concern that witnesses would not be as forthcoming under the Murdaugh sphere of influence,” the firm, Bland Richter, said in a statement, confirming that the teen’s body is being exhumed.
Officials have been mum on what new information emerged, and CNN said police reports did not elaborate on why Buster was on the “radar.”
His now-deceased brother’s ex-girlfriend, Morgan Doughty, 23, recently told a Netflix doc that “there were so many rumors swirling around that Buster and Stephen were intimate together.”
“Being gay in the Murdaugh family would have been looked down upon,” said Doughty, who was close to the whole family.
Buster appeared to allude to those rumors in his denial statement Monday, released even before the case was confirmed as being eyed as a homicide.
“These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” he said.
“I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.”
Buster complained of being “harassed” over his family’s ever-deepening scandals, which also involved a botched scam to get him $10 million life insurance.
He had testified in defense of his serial-lying dad, who is now appealing his conviction for murdering his wife and other son.
The 54-year-old patriarch is now serving two life sentences in prison and faces nearly 100 other charges for crimes that emerged after the shocking double murder.
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