Hello and welcome to Luna Shark’s February Soundbites. I’m Beth Braden, journalist and researcher for the True Sunlight Podcast hosted by Mandy Matney and Liz Farrell. Spring is finally on the horizon, we have had some great guests on the Cup of Justice podcast, and we are pushing hard to get answers about who killed Stephen Smith. Here are 5 things you need to know as we move into March. 

Number 1 – It’s been an entire year since a Colleton County jury found Alex Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife, Maggie, and younger son, Paul. 

March second marks the one year anniversary of the verdict that sentenced Alex Murdaugh to life in prison after he was found guilty for the June 7, 2021 murders of his wife and son. Premium members were invited to a live YouTube chat where we watched the murder trial’s most memorable moments on February 29. Check the feed at lunashark.supercast.com if you missed the stream and want to catch up. While it’s been a year since the trial’s conclusion, the never ending motions and allegations of jury tampering from the Murdaugh’s defense team made it feel like it was never truly over until the Justice Jean Toal denied Murdaugh’s motion for a new trial at the end of January. 

Number 2 – Cup of Justice featured several new voices in February. 

Cup of Justice Episode 69 featured conversations with victims rights attorney Sarah A. Ford and private investigator Mackenzie Fultz. 

Sarah and Mandy were at the Capitol Club in Columbia, South Carolina for an exclusive members-only event where they discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly of the judicial system in South Carolina. In the second half of the episode, Mandy and private investigator Mackenzie Fultz — also known as Freedom Barbie on TikTok — sat down for a lengthy conversation about journalism, private investigations, and the times they were underestimated. Mackenzie walked Mandy through some of her wildest moments as a private investigator. 

You have to hear about the time she ended up pretending to be interested in a vehicle at a car lot in order to find out if somebody was really as injured as they said they were. Mandy had lots of questions for Mackenzie — including about the time her work led to a murder being solved, even if the cops didn’t want to give Mackenzie credit. 

MacKenzie Fultz  50:31

What’s difficult about being hired to investigate a murder after it’s already been investigated by law enforcement is the access to records the access to evidence, everything’s been destroyed and looked through and everything’s like, and then if it’s still open, and they’re still investigating, or if it’s just not closed, you don’t have access to literally anything, and they just put like a huge damper on everything. So a lot of when you’re working on a murder, it’s a lot of talking to people, but you have to rely on the, on the words of others, like you have no choice, but I haven’t done very many, like, I haven’t done enough to really like speak on it or anything. But that’s my experience is that you have to you have to talk to a lot of people. Well,

Mandy Matney  52:00  

but that’s how some murders are solved.

Mackenzie Fultz 52:02  

Yeah, that’s true, too. Yeah.

Mandy Matney  52:04  

I mean, sometimes there’s just no evidence, especially years later, have you been able to solve like, Have you been hired? And were able to find a? Who did it?

Mackenzie Fultz  52:15  

There were I’ve just been involved in three, and only one of them had a solution? And I, I think it was, they said that we didn’t have anything to do with it. But I think we did. 

Cup of Justice Episode 69

Number 3 – We FOIA’d and Found Out – AGAIN 

In December, I filed a massive FOIA request in an attempt to fact check some of the claims circulating around Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill. We finally got answers back in early February and learned a new detail concerning the investigation into the double homicide. One of the files we received was a collection of emails between Becky Hill and producers from various documentary companies. Among them was an MOI  — a memorandum of interview — from SLED about a discussion they had with Alex’s older sister, Lynne Murdaugh Goatee. Apparently on the night of the murder, a Murdaugh niece found a hand towel with what looked like blood on it in the bathroom of the Moselle home. The niece brought it to Lynne’s attention, but Lynne – according to the MOI – told SLED that she didn’t believe it was related to the homicide so she instructed someone to wash it. Hear the whole story  in True Sunlight Podcast Episode 38. 

Number 4 – Dr. Kenny Kinsey went on quite a hike trying to understand and exclude certain routes that Stephen Smith may have taken the night he died. 

Dr. Kinsey is the crime scene investigator who tied all of the elements of the Murdaugh crime scene together for the jury last year, and he was also retained by Sandy Smith’s attorney and COJ co-host Eric Bland, to figure out what happened. 

In Cup of Justice Episode 70, Liz and EB interviewed Dr. Kinsey about how he investigated the case and how he reached his conclusions. The biggest takeaway? Dr. Kinsey believes that Stephen was not injured elsewhere and left on Sandy Run Road. Instead, Dr. Kinsey believes that whatever happened had to have occurred at the same spot where Stephen’s body was found. 

Early on when we first started looking into this case in 2019, we could see that there was no trail of blood … nothing that would obviously indicate that Stephen’s body had been moved. But we were told by an investigator friend of ours that the large pool of blood had the potential to cover up a short trail if, say, Stephen were removed from the bed of a pickup truck and placed on the road directly behind it. 

Dr. Kinsey was able to rule this out. 

He said he believed that Stephen died in the place he was found because of a blood pattern on Stephen’s face that showed he was still breathing for an unknown length of time after he was injured. 

True Sunlight Episode 40

Number 5 – We are full speed ahead on finding out who is responsible for Stephen Smith’s death. 

With the denial of Alex Murdagh’s motion for a new trial came the bandwidth to dig deep and start back over on the Stephen Smith case. Mandy and Liz have been reporting on the case for more than five years now, and they have gone back to the beginning before Stephen died to understand more about who he was as a person. In True Sunlight Episode 40, you can hear one of Stephen’s teachers recount what he was like as he finished high school, and Mandy and Liz share their impressions after viewing thousands of photographs that were downloaded from Stephen’s phone and iPad after his death. 

We believe this case can be solved , and we believe that somebody in Hampton County has answers. If you knew Stephen personally, especially in the months and weeks leading up to his death in July 2015, please reach out to Mandy by emailing [email protected]. You can also visit answersforstephen.com to submit an anonymous tip. If you want to speak directly to South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division,  you can reach them by emailing [email protected] No tip is too small. Sometimes the tiniest bit of information is the missing piece that breaks a case like this wide open. Remember – there is a $30,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. 

Liz and I have been investigating Stephen Smith’s case for almost 5 years now – and it just occurred to both of us how little we really knew about him until we poured through the images on the CD. 

We’ve talked to dozens of people who knew Stephen over the years, but the images on his phone told me about a person I really related to. A person who in another world, 19 year old Mandy would have been great friends with 19 year old Stephen. 

Stephen had a fantastic sense of humor. School and reading were at the center of his world. He was often frustrated with the cost of college – which is evident in the many memes saved to his phone. 

True Sunlight Episode 40

Beyond the podcasts, there are several in-person events ahead of us. Mandy will be at the Tucson Festival of books on March 10 and 11 so swing by if you’re in the area. 

On Thursday, March 21st, elected officials, community partners, victims of crime, and their families and friends will rally with the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN) at the South Carolina State House ….. to raise awareness about the barriers faced by victims of violent crime throughout the Palmetto State. 

Then, in April, Mandy  will be in  Wichita to speak at the Kansas Governor’s Victim Rights Conference. Later this year,  she’ll be headed to Nashville, Napa, Maui, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philly and Missouri.  If you have a suggestion for an event nearby or something entirely new, visit lunasharkmedia.com slash new events to submit your idea. 

As we grow, more and more of these in person events will be reserved just for Premium Members and you can join as a Soak Up The Sun Member with 50% off the first month at lunashark.supercast.com. As always, we deeply appreciate your support. 

And until next month, stay pesky. 

Contact Beth Braden

Beth Braden

Beth Braden is an award-winning journalist with experience covering government, education and crime and courts for more than 10 years. In addition to following breaking news and writing feature stories about life in her home state of Tennessee, her by-line appears on several internationally known websites.

Beth is passionate about communicating complex information in an easy-to-understand manner and she loves to pore over public records and court documents as she seeks out patterns and context to share with her audience. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, strange museums, and good cups of coffee.

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