HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A former trooper with the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) who investigated the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith said Wednesday that a rape kit was ordered just hours after his body was discovered on a rural Hampton County road in 2015.
The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced this week they are investigating Smith’s death as a homicide. Smith’s death was initially investigated as a hit and run, but investigators said the evidence did not support that as a cause of death.
Michael Duncan, a former SCHP supervisor, told NewsNation during an exclusive interview Wednesday night that troopers were never given the opportunity to provide their findings and that they received a call to “stay back.”
Duncan told NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield that a rape kit was ordered within 13 hours of Smith’s body being discovered. He said this was unusual for a traffic accident investigation.
“When it comes to traffic accidents… never,” he said. “This was the very first time. I did not have an understanding of why it was being ordered. We were not notified until later that it had been ordered. I have no answers for you as to why they would have ordered a rape kit for what would be suspected as a hit and run, which it wasn’t.”
Attorney Ronnie Richter of the Bland Richter Law Firm, who is representing Sandy Smith, Stephen’s mother, confirmed to News 2 on Thursday that a rape kit had, in fact, been ordered.
“What the results of the rape kit showed, I have no idea. Nor do I know if that evidence was preserved and still available today. But I do know that it was gathered,” said Richter.
If the rape kit was preserved by investigators or if the results still exist, Richter says it could prove vital to finding answers in the renewed investigation.
“A ray of light I see in the rape kit is, to me it speaks to the level of comprehensiveness in the investigation that was done,” said Richter. “If that is indicative of the captured information that’s available, I think it gives us a great advantage going forward.”
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, SLED stated that it opened an investigation into Smith’s death in June of 2021 after “agents received information about his death and subsequently reviewed the SCHP investigative file.” SLED said that Highway Patrol’s case notes made it “apparent that the SCHP did not believe Mr. Smith’s death was a hit and run.”
Meanwhile, Sandy Smith has raised more than $90,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to pay for an independent investigation including exhuming her son’s body, an autopsy and a medical examiner that must be present throughout the process.