Murdaugh double murders: Former SC trooper speaks out about suspicions in 2015 cold case linked to family06/24/2021
EXCLUSIVE: Former South Carolina trooper from 2015 cold case linked to Murdaugh family speaks out amid ongoing double murder investigation
Just hours after South Carolina authorities announce the reopening of the 2015 investigation, one of the lead troopers handling the cold case recalls his suspicions surrounding the crime and says the Murdaugh family wouldn’t cooperate.
EXCLUSIVE: A former South Carolina state trooper who led the 2015 cold case involving an alleged fatal hit-and-run is speaking out exclusively to Fox News, describing how the prominent Murdaugh family refused to cooperate with the investigation, and he was suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the young victim’s death.
Todd Proctor was the lead state police investigator working the unsolved death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, who was alleged to have been killed by a hit-and-run driver in Hampton County six years ago. The cold case was recently reopened as state law enforcement agents continue to investigate the deaths of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her 22-year-old son, Paul Murdaugh.
Tommy Crosby, a spokesperson for the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), said the case was reopened “based upon information gathered in the double murder investigation.” Crosby has not said what information led to the decision, and would not explain how it might be connected to Maggie’s and Paul’s June 7 shooting deaths.
But Proctor told Fox News exclusively that he always felt the case looked more like a murder than a hit-and-run death.
Proctor described how when a pedestrian is struck, the momentum from the collision typically “causes them to tumble down the road,” with their clothes and shoes being thrown from their bodies or torn in the process.
“We had no evidence to show there was any movement of the body,” Proctor told Fox News. Instead, “it looked like it was placed there.”
Smith’s phone, wallet and keys were “hanging halfway out of his pocket,” Proctor recalled.
He added: “It just didn’t fit the description that this individual was hit by a vehicle.”
Investigators initially thought Smith might have been shot, which an autopsy examination later ruled out, Proctor said.
Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith, has told news outlets for the past six years that she thought her son was beaten to death and not hit by a vehicle. She has long said she thought someone in the area covered up the crime.
The coroner’s report said Smith was most likely hit in the head by the mirror of a passing semitruck in July 2015. Police said he was walking on a two-lane road after running out of gas.
Sandy Smith told The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle in 2015 that there was no broken glass or plastic shards from a mirror on the road where her son’s body was found. Proctor concurred, telling Fox News there was “no evidence left” – no vehicle parts, no glass.
“The way his body was laying in the road, with his arm dislocated and bent back behind his body, I just don’t believe that he was struck by the mirror of a vehicle,” Sandy Smith told the newspaper.
Over the course of his investigation into Smith’s death, Proctor said he conducted interviews during which “stories came up, names came up” – including, he said, that of the Murdaughs.
But Proctor said the investigation soon hit a roadblock.
A vehicle sits in the driveway of a home, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in rural Colleton County, near Islandton, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP)
(Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP)
As information arises, investigators “track these stories down,” he said. “What I ended up finding [was] there were a lot of people who didn’t want to assist or communicate with us. They were very withdrawn with what they knew or thought.”
Soon, people, including the Murdaugh family, were unwilling to speak with investigators, Proctor said.
“As people of interest in the case come up … and you try to get them to speak with you … they shut down,” Proctor explained. “And when you don’t have enough evidence to compel someone legally to speak with you … you have to go off their willingness to speak to you.”
When asked if that included members of the Murdaugh family, Proctor responded: “It does.”
The Murdaughs are one of the state’s most prominent, well-connected legal families, with a history going back decades.
Sources are investigating whether Paul Murdaugh was the intended target of the June 7 shooting. He suffered wounds to his upper body and head from what appeared to have been a shotgun, while a rifle is believed to have been used to kill his mother, the Island Packet reported.
So far, police have released very little, but have said Alex Murdaugh, the victims’ husband and father, respectively, found the bodies of his son and wife and called 911.
Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on charges of boating under the influence in connection with a 2019 boat crash that killed a 19-year-old named Mallory Beach. Beach’s remains were not recovered until days later.
Randy Murdaugh and John Marvin Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh’s brothers, told “Good Morning America” last week that Paul Murdaugh had been threatened by strangers in the past.
“I didn’t think it was a credible threat,” John Marvin Murdaugh said during the interview. “If it was, I would have tried to do something or notified someone, but I guess … maybe I made a mistake.”
But Randy Murdaugh said he didn’t know of any “enemies” that the family, or Paul, had.
“You hear all this talk on the social media with regard to Paul,” he said, “but I don’t know of anybody that would truly, that would truly be an enemy or truly want to harm them.”
Last week, SLED announced the creation of a 24-hour tip line for anyone with information related to the case. Anyone with information is asked to call (803) 896-2605.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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