Buster Murdaugh issued his first public statement since his father, Alex Murdaugh, was convicted of murdering his mother and brother.

In the statement, he denied any connection to the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, a high school classmate. The investigation into Smith’s death was reopened during the investigation of the 2021 murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.

Buster refuted the rumors about his involvement in Smith’s death and expressed his grief over the loss of his mother and brother. Despite the ongoing media speculation, he tried to ignore the rumors and focused on his love for his family.

“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,” he added. “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.”

In July 2015, Stephen Smith was discovered dead with blunt force trauma in the middle of a rural road in Hampton County, South Carolina. Authorities initially believed Smith died in a hit-and-run, but there was no evidence of a crash, leading to suspicions that his body had been dumped there.

Before his death, Smith, an openly gay nursing student, had confided in his sister that he was secretly dating another young man whose identity would surprise many people in the conservative area.

Following Smith’s death, the Murdaugh family name was frequently mentioned during the investigation, but Buster has since denied any involvement in the matter. In his statement, he refuted the unfounded rumors of his connection to Stephen’s death and expressed his sympathy to the Smith family.

Buster also requested that the media refrain from publishing defamatory comments and rumors about him. Meanwhile, Smith’s mother, Sandy, raised $60,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to have her son’s body exhumed for an independent autopsy.

“She expressed gratitude for not allowing Stephen’s story to be ignored or hidden,” she said.

While investigating the Murdaugh murders, agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division reopened investigations into the death of Smith and Gloria Satterfield’s 2018 death, citing “gathered information.” Alex Murdaugh later confessed to embezzling over $4 million in insurance funds that were due to Satterfield’s family.

Throughout his father’s murder trial, Buster sat beside his girlfriend and uncle every day. On Feb. 21, he testified in his father’s defense, recounting how his father had called him on June 7, 2021, to inform him that his mother and brother had been fatally shot.

Buster testified, “He was devastated. His heart was broken. When I walked in and saw him, he was just shattered, and I gave him a hug.” Buster also informed the jury that he was aware of his father’s addiction to painkillers, but believed that Alex had “dealt with it” following his time in a detox facility.