Police say they are investigating death of Buster Murdaugh’s classmate and rumored lover as a homicide.
Lebanon: Protesters try to storm government HQ amid economic turmoil.
Another “Murdaugh Murder”? Police re-investigating 2015 death of Buster Murdaugh classmate
Earlier this month, disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty in the grisly 2021 shooting deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul. The conviction followed a sensational 6-week trial, attended nearly every day by Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster. 26. Now Buster himself is facing scrutiny in connection with another mysterious case.
In July 2015, the body of Stephen Smith, 19, was found lying dead in the middle of a rural road, about 15 miles from the Murdaugh estate. Authorities at the time ruled Smith’s death to be the result of a hit-and-run. However, some investigators who attended the scene expressed doubts, saying it looked more as if Smith had been killed elsewhere and dumped in the road.
None of the tell-tale signs of a car having struck a pedestrian were present. There was no broken glass or tire marks at the scene. Smith’s loose-fitting shoes were still on his feet and his phone was still in his back pocket, both of which are unusual in vehicular homicides. There was also no sign Smith had been dragged along the ground.
Nevertheless, the medical examiner ruled it a hit-and-run. When South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Todd Proctor went to the pathologist and questioned her conclusions, he said she was combative. “I asked her why she stated that in the report,” Trooper Proctor wrote in his report. “Her answer was ‘because he was found in the road‘.”
Rumors of rumors
It so happened that Smith, a nursing student, had been a high school classmate of Buster’s. Following Smith’s death, rumors circulated around the small town of Hampton, SC, that Stephen, who was openly gay, had been having an affair with Buster.
Other rumors had it that Buster and possibly his brother Paul were involved in Smith’s death. Investigators tried to track down these rumor to their source, but as so often happens in small towns, no one could, or would, say where the rumor began. At that time, the Murdaugh name was a respected and feared on in that area of South Carolina. Investigators now hope that people with knowledge about what happened to Stephen will be more willing to come forward.
Last week, Buster Murdaugh issued a statement attempting to distance himself from Smith’s death and dismissing any suggestion that he and Stephen had a sexual relationship. “These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” Buster said. “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family”.
Smith to be exhumed
Stephen’s mother Sandy has long believed that Stephen died by foul play and that the Murdaughs were somehow part of it. What is certain is that members of the Murdaugh family inserted themselves into the investigation at the crime scene. In fact, the Murdaughs knew Smith was dead before Sandy did.
In 2021, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced it was re-opening the investigation into Stephen’s death “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh”. SLED has not divulged what that information is or where it came from. Yesterday, SLED confirmed they were investigating Stephen’s death as a homicide but named no person of interest.
The recent spotlight on the Murdaugh clan helped Sandy raise $86,000 on a GoFundMe, far exceeding her goal of $40,000 to have Stephen exhumed for an independent autopsy. But SLED investigators said an exhumation wasn’t necessary for them to believe Stephen was murdered. Despite the initial ruling that Stephen’s death was an accident, State Troopers have long believed otherwise. In fact, SLED said that based on the initial reports, there was no reason to conclude it was a hit-and-run.
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Lebanon: Protestors attempt to storm government in Beirut
Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 95% of its value. People who once lived comfortably on an income equivalent to $1000 a month have seen their incomes dwindle to about $50 a month. In February, the inflation rate was at 189.67%. Banks have compounded the misery by severely limiting the amount of cash people can withdraw, despite court orders giving depositors access to their funds.
Decades of misrule by a corrupt elite has sent Lebanon’s economy into a death spiral. The government in Beirut has reached out to the international community for help in stabilizing their economy. However, they’ve resisted the political and economic reforms demanded by potential lenders, including the IMF.
On Wednesday, a crowd of thousands of retired soldiers and enraged depositors laid siege to the Grand Serail, a 3-story Ottoman era building that serves as the government headquarters. For nearly two hours, protesters hurled stones and attempted to break through the security fence. Police fired tear gas into the crowd, causing some protesters to suffer breathing problems.
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