Mandy and Liz traveled to Hampton to meet Sandy Smith for the first time in 2019 to learn more about her son, Stephen, and his 2015 death. They also paint a picture of what it was like living in Hampton County.

Sandy — who found herself lost in the bureaucracy of who was (or was not) investigating Stephen’s death — showed Mandy and Liz her well-organized binder full of important documents, including her letter to then-governor Nikki Haley.

Sandy put a lot of time, effort, and perseverance into creating and organizing information surrounding Stephen’s death. Information and documentation is important in any investigation, but it can be overwhelming thinking about where to start and what’s the best course of action.

Our Luna Shark team shares their best practices for how to start your own investigation and create a timeline.

In October 2023, Sandy joined Mandy and Soak Up the Sun members for another Happy Hour. They discuss updates in Stephen’s case and Sandy’s thoughts on Blood On Their Hands.

Behind the Book with Co-Author Carolyn Murnick

Sandy Smith is one of the most important characters in BOTH, and has become one of the most important people in Mandy’s life. In this chapter, we wanted to introduce her and Stephen’s to the reader with the reverence they deserved. Stephen’s case is such a complicated one, and there was only so much we could share given the ongoing nature of the investigation. Luckily Mandy had original audio from her first meeting with Sandy, and lots of documents from the binder Sandy shared with her. This chapter was also important for giving the reader their first look at Hampton County. It was Mandy and Liz’s first visit to the area, and describing the texture and the vibe of the place was something we both knew was important to communicate. Mandy and I spent a long time talking about the visceral reaction she had to crossing over the county line. Eagle-eyed readers will also notice the first mention of doing a podcast in this chapter! 

Carolyn Murnick

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