Netflix, HBO documentaries point finger at Buster Murdaugh, lead to reopening of old case of deceased friend as homicide

The death of Stephen Smith has reportedly been ruled a homicide, eight years after the teenager’s death was chalked up to a drive-by incident that took place outside his classmate Buster Murdaugh’s family property in South Carolina.

Bland Richter Law Firm made the stunning announcement on Tuesday, noting: “Bland Richter Law Firm is proud to announce that after an extraordinary disclosure phone call with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel, that the death of Stephen Smith is now considered a HOMICIDE, a shocking announcement after eight years of being proclaimed a highway vehicular manslaughter.”

This news comes just a single day after Buster denied “vicious rumors” that apparently tie him to his former classmate’s death, according to the Daily Mail.

Smith was found dead on July 8, 2015, on a rural road near the Murdaugh family hunting lodge. The Smith family has raised $60,000 to exhume the boy’s body in an effort to conduct an independent autopsy.

Smith’s case was reopened in 2021, which happened to be the same year that Murdaugh’s father, Alex Murdaugh, was charged with double-murder of his youngest son, Paul, and his wife, Maggie. It was reported that new evidence surrounding Smith’s death was brought to light while investigating these murders.

SLED had reportedly discovered new evidence that would shed new light on the mystery surrounding Smith’s death, suggesting that the drive-by thesis did not hold up, as Smith’s body did not have any injuries from the torso down, and there were no car parts in the vicinity.

In June 2021, the police investigating Smith’s mysterious death apparently probed witnesses over a potential relationship the deceased boy may have had with Buster, the heir to a legal dynasty in South Carolina, according to the Daily Mail.

Despite lacking substantial evidence to tie Buster Murdaugh directly to Smith’s death, two documentaries have since been released by Netflix and HBO that were unabashed in their speculation that he was involved romantically with Smith, and that Murdaugh's younger brother Paul may have also been involved in Smith’s death.

It is curious why these two major production companies would decide to release these documentaries in the midst of Buster dealing with the death of his brother and mother, and having to watch his father be sentenced to life in prison. One cannot help but speculate whether these entertainment platforms were looking to financially capitalize on a vulnerable individual who had just lost his entire family.

However, Buster broke his silence on Monday, writing a statement that was shared by Alex Murdaugh’s lawyer Jim Griffin, which said: “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.”

Though there have been reports of witnesses linking Murdaugh and Smith, investigators have yet to publicly link Smith’s death to the Murdaugh family. This did not stop Netflix from producing a documentary that featured several people who allegedly heard rumors of Murdaugh’s potential romantic involvement with Smith. 

It is equally compelling that Buster was reportedly never brought in for questioning during the initial investigation that took place in 2015.

Time Magazine reported in February that over a six-year span, 2015 to 2021, a total of six murders have been “inextricably linked” to the Murdaugh family, including that of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was in a boat that crashed into a bridge in Hampton County, South Carolina. Her body never surfaced.

Despite Alex Murdaugh’s crimes, it has yet to be seen whether Buster had anything to do with the death of Smith, or if they really were romantically involved. No charges have been filed.

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