News (USA)

Buster Murdaugh denies involvement with gay classmate murdered in 2015

A murder victim
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Buster Murdaugh, the son of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh has asked the media to stop spreading rumors that he was involved in the murder of Stephen Smith, a gay high school classmate who died in a 2015 hit-and-run at the age of 19.

Both Buster and Alex Murdaugh are members of an influential South Carolina lawyering family. Alex Murdaugh was recently convicted of murdering his wife and son and Maggie and Paul Murdaugh in June 2021. Alex Murdaugh is appealing the conviction.

In a 2023 Netflix mini-series, Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, a 23-year-old family friend Morgan Doughty mentioned rumors that Buster Murdaugh was romantically involved with Smith. “Being gay in the Murdaugh family would have been looked down upon,” she said.

Smith’s mother recently raised $65,000 to exhume and conduct a private autopsy on her deceased son after police investigators in Hampton County uncovered information that compelled them to reopen the cold case into Smith’s July 2015 murder.

Smith died from blunt force trauma on the same road where Alex Murdaugh later gunned down his wife and son in June 2021. Smith’s body was found 15 miles from the Murdaugh home and about three miles from Smith’s vehicle, which had run out of gas, NBC News reported. One of Alex Murdaugh’s brothers called Smith’s parents about their son’s death even before the Smith family had heard from local law enforcement, The New York Post wrote.

“We need a new, unbiased look at [Smith’s] body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on facts. There was no debris in the road, and his injuries were not consistent with a hit-and-run,” Smith’s mother Sandy Smith wrote on a GoFundMe page raising money for her son’s autopsy.

Sandy Smith said police initially informed her that her son had been shot to death before later saying that he’d been hit by a car, she told The New York Post. She also said her son had “defensive wounds and said of the gay rumors, “Buster wouldn’t have been [my son’s] type. Stephen liked older people.”

There is no public evidence that Buster Murdaugh has ever had any intimate emotional, romantic, or sexual involvement with same-sex partners.

In a statement released Monday, Buster Murdaugh wrote, “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.”

“These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” he added. “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 a Monday news conference, Ronnie Richter, a lawyer working on the Smith case said, “We’ve not mentioned Buster’s name one time. This is not about Buster Murdaugh…. This is about Stephen Smith. There’s no reason to discuss Buster Murdaugh.”

Richter’s legal partner, Eric Bland, added, “Buster is a victim — he lost a mother, a brother, and now his father’s in jail. Buster, as we know, has nothing to do with this, and whatever is mentioned in the records, that’s what investigators are going to look at, but we have no knowledge at all about Buster or the Murdaughs having anything to do with this right now. We’re starting with a fresh set of eyes.”

Ari Shapiro tells his own story

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