Buster Murdaugh made his first public statement on the death of his high school classmate Stephen Smith, telling NBC News in an exclusive statement he denies having any involvement in Smith's death in 2015.
“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," Murdaugh said. "I love them so much and miss them terribly."
"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 continued.
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Murdaugh's father, Alex Murdaugh, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife Maggie Murdaugh and youngest son Paul Murdaugh, putting a spotlight on the powerful family in South Carolina's Lowcountry.
Murdaugh said he has been "targeted and harassed" by the media and followers of his family's story, both before and since his father's trial.
"This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false," he said. "I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family."
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Murdaugh also asked for the media to "immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors."
Smith was found dead in July 2015 on a rural road about 15 miles from one of the Murdaugh family properties in Hampton County, South Carolina. It appeared he was struck by a vehicle after he stepped out of his car after it ran out of gas, NBC affiliate WCBD reported.
Authorities reopened Smith's case after the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh "based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation," S.C. Law Enforcement Division spokesperson Tommy Crosby said in a June 2021 statement.
No member of the Murdaugh family has been named as a suspect in Smith's case.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: