Curtis Edward Smith is a 61-year-old South Carolina man who is accused of shooting Alex Murdaugh, the prominent lawyer whose wife and son were mysteriously murdered in June at the family’s hunting lodge.
The arrest of Smith, and the charges (including assisted suicide), add another layer of drama and strangeness to the case, which involves a well-known and wealthy family. It was one of the most mysterious double murder cases in the country even before Alex Murdaugh, the patriarch, was himself shot – a shooting that authorities now say was an assisted suicide carried out by Smith at Murdaugh’s behest. Murdaugh survived.
“Agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Tuesday arrested a Colleton County man in connection with the shooting incident involving Alex Murdaugh on Sept. 4 in Hampton County,” the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said in a news release on September 14, 2021.
Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, authorities said, adding that “additional charges in the case are expected and will be announced at the appropriate time. Smith has also been charged with distribution of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.” Alex Murdaugh has not been charged.
Authorities have not revealed how Smith knew Murdaugh; however, Smith was Murdaugh’s past legal client. Furthermore, an old obituary for a Walterboro-based brother of a Curtis Edward Smith indicates that their mother was named “Emaline Murdaugh Smith.” It’s not clear whether that gives Smith a family relation to Murdaugh, however distant. Emaline’s obituary says she was the “daughter of the late Edward Carroll Murdaugh and the late Charity Robertson Murdaugh.”
Authorities noted, “The SLED investigation was requested by the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office. Smith was booked at the Colleton County Detention Center. The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office.”
Murdaugh, a well-known lawyer, found the bodies of his murdered son and wife in June 2021, slayings that remain unsolved. Murdaugh was shot in the separate incident on Friday, September 4, 2021, along a rural roadway, in which he claims he was changing a tire, according to the Charlotte Observer. Murdaugh was shot in the head but survived, the newspaper reported.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Smith Is Accused of Shooting Murdaugh at Murdaugh’s Direction
In the description of the offense provided by SLED, authorities allege that, on or around September 4, 2021, in the town of Varnville, South Carolina, Curtis Edward Smith committed the offense of conspiracy.
Co-defendant Richard Alexander Murdaugh (Alex Murdaugh) conspired with Curtis Edward Smith for the purpose of “Mr. Smith assisting Mr. Murdaugh to commit suicide. In that Mr. Murdaugh provided Mr. Smith with a firearm and directed Mr. Smith to shoot him in the head for the purpose of causing Mr. Murdaughs death and allowing for the payment of a stated death benefit to the b beneficiary of the insured, Mr. Murdaugh,” the document alleges.
Smith followed Murdaugh to Old Salkehatchie Road and “shot Mr. Murdaugh as he stood in the roadway,” authorities say.
After shooting Murdaugh in the head, Smith drove to an unknown location and disposed of the firearm, they say. Murdaugh survived the shooting and was taken to the hospital.
According to Fox News, before Smith’s arrest was revealed, Murdaugh announced he was leaving his law firm and entering rehab to deal with a “long battle that has been exacerbated these murders.”
The statement sent to Fox read, “The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life. I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret. I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated these murders. I am immensely sorry to everyone I’ve hurt including my family, friends and colleagues. I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships.”
According to The New York Times, Murdaugh had been “pushed out of his powerful law firm over claims that he had misused funds the day before he called 911 from a rural road to say that he had been shot in the head, the firm disclosed on Monday.”
The Times reported that Murdaugh and the firm’s leaders agreed he should resign on Friday, September 3, after a forensic accounting investigation revealed he had misappropriated what one unnamed source told the outlet was millions of dollars.
Murdaugh’s oldest brother, Randolph “Randy” Murdaugh, IV, a partner at the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick PA (PMPED) law firm started by their grandfather, told Bluffton Today, “I was shocked, just as the rest of my PMPED family, to learn of my brother, Alex’s, drug addiction and stealing of money. I love my law firm family and also love Alex as my brother. While I will support him in his recovery, I do not support, condone, or excuse his conduct in stealing by manipulating his most trusted relationships. I will continue to pursue my client’s interests with the highest degree of honesty and integrity, as I always have.”
This came after news Alex Murdaugh had been shot.
“The next day, Mr. Murdaugh told the police he had been changing a tire at the side of a road in Hampton County — where members of his family have established a powerful legal dynasty over three generations — when someone in a truck pulled up and shot him in the head,” the outlet reported.
According to The New York Times, a state law enforcement spokesman “confirmed that Mr. Murdaugh had suffered ‘a superficial gunshot wound to the head.'”
Sources told FITS News that Murdaugh has an opioid addiction.
Murdaugh, whose full name is R. Alexander Murdaugh Sr., discovered Paul Murdaugh, 22, and Maggie Murdaugh, 52, shot to death at the family’s hunting lodge “Moselle” on June 7, 2021.
Alex Murdaugh was previously called a “person of interest” in the deaths of his son and daughter, who were members of a family so prominent and accomplished that some in South Carolina are comparing the double homicide to a John Grisham novel, according to FITS News. No one has been arrested or charged in the deaths of Paul and Maggie.
The State newspaper described the family as representing “power, justice, and big money” for nearly a century. Heavy sent Alex Murdaugh an email through his law firm asking if he wanted to comment after the murders. He did not comment.
2. Murdaugh Wanted Smith to Kill Him So His Surviving Son Would Get $10 Million in Life Insurance Proceeds, Authorities Say
On Sept. 13, Murdaugh admitted “to the scheme of having Mr. Smith murder him for the purpose of his son collecting a life insurance policy valued at approximately $10 million,” according to authorities.
On Sept. 14, Smith admitted being present during the shooting of Murdaugh and of disposing of the firearm afterwards, authorities say.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the Murdaugh case, told Heavy in an emailed statement, “On Sept. 4, 2021 at 1:34 p.m., Hampton County Central Dispatch received a 911 call from Alex Murdaugh who reported that he had been shot on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, South Carolina in Hampton County.”
SLED noted, “The Hampton County Sheriff’s Office secured the scene and Emergency Medical Services coordinated medical air transport of Alex Murdaugh to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia for treatment of a superficial gunshot wound to the head. At the request of the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office, SLED was requested to lead the investigation.”
The statement continued, “SLED personnel were dispatched at 2:41 p.m., with lowcountry regional agents arriving on scene at 3:40 p.m. and SLED crime scene agents arriving on scene at 4:30 p.m. SLED regional agents and crime scene agents worked throughout the night into Sunday morning collecting evidence, processing the crime scene, interviewing potential witnesses, and following up on potential leads. A black Mercedes-Benz SUV driven by Alex Murdaugh was initially processed and ultimately towed from the scene to a law enforcement impound lot for further evaluation. At this time no arrests have been made.”
Heavy obtained the incident report for Murdaugh’s shooting, which describes it as an attempted murder.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the 53-year-old lawyer was found shot on the afternoon of Saturday, September 4, 2021, on “a rural road in Hampton County.” His lawyer said he was recovering in the hospital, the Observer reported.
Jim Griffin, Murdaugh’s lawyer, told the Observer that Murdaugh had car trouble on his way to Charleston and stopped on the road when a truck that had passed him, turned around, and the person inside shot him. Griffin told the newspaper that he got that information from Murdaugh’s brother Randy.
3. Smith Is Murdaugh’s Former Client; Murdaugh’s Wife & Son Were Executed Near a Dog Kennel in June
The accusations against Smith don’t deal with the slayings of Murdaugh’s wife and son, but those deaths are present in many people’s minds as the mystery deepens.
The arrest warrant says that Smith is from Walterboro, South Carolina. He is a white male standing 6 foot tall, weighing 225 pounds, and with a South Carolina driver’s license. There is a Curtis E. Smith with a 1997 bankruptcy in South Carolina, but the records were not immediately available.
According to the Daily Beast, Smith was Murdaugh’s former client in a personal injury lawsuit from a decade back, and Smith allegedly gave Alex Murdaugh drugs.
The New York Times reported that Murdaugh also represented Smith in a lawsuit against a Charlotte, North Carolina, forest management company and over a 2013 speeding ticket.
The Murdaugh family is asking for privacy after the latest shooting, telling the Observer in a statement, “The Murdaugh family has suffered through more than any one family can ever imagine. We expect Alex to recover and ask for your privacy while he recovers.”
Paul Murdaugh and Maggie Murdaugh were shot “execution style” in a premeditated “very ugly” scene, FITSNews reported.
According to The Augusta Chronicle, the bodies were found “outside the residence, near a dog kennel,” and the coroner confirmed they died from “multiple gunshot wounds.”
The suspect or suspects are not clear; neither is the motive, authorities said, though they said “there is no danger to the public,” according to FITSNews.
FITSNews has done some of the best local reporting on the mysterious murder case. They reported through sources that Alex Murdaugh has an “ironclad alibi” in the deaths of his wife and son.
However, Alex Murdaugh is “a central focus of the probe,” the site reported. Alex Murdaugh has not been arrested, charged, or publicly accused of anything in connection with the deaths; nor have on-the-record sources confirmed the FITSNews account.
The site noted that he has an alibi but quoted a source as saying there are “credible concerns” about when the shootings happened and said authorities are looking into “possible manipulation of the crime scene.”
The Post and Courier reported that Maggie Murdaugh was found a few yards away from Paul Murdaugh.
Authorities have not released many details. However, FITSNews reported, via law enforcement sources, that the Murdaughs died from “multiple gunshot wounds.”
The site reported that Maggie’s husband and Paul’s father, Richard Alexander Murdaugh Sr., discovered the bodies outside one of two homes on their 1,700-acre property around 10 p.m. on Monday, June 7, 2021.
Paul is the shorter brother in family photos; the other brother is Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr., known as “Buster,” who was not harmed. There’s no indication he was present. He works at the family’s law firm, according to his Facebook page.
The Island Packet reported, also through sources, that the victims were shot with different weapons — a shotgun and an assault rifle. According to the outlet, Alex Murdaugh said he wasn’t home at the time of the shootings.
South Carolina law enforcement has only confirmed that they are “leading an investigation into a double homicide that took place in Colleton county last night,” FITSNews reported.
4. Alex Murdaugh, a Personal Injury Lawyer Who Serves as a Part-Time Prosecutor, Is ‘Alert & Talking,’ Reports Say; Authorities Say They Found Meth at Smith’s Home
Authorities said they found more than one gram of methamphetamine during a search warrant at Smith’s home.
Alex Murdaugh, despite the shooting, is “alert and talking,” according to WLTX.com.
Murdaugh was shot on Salkehatchie Road, the television station reported.
Murdaugh is formerly a lawyer with the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick Law Firm. “The Murdaugh family and PMPED wish to thank everyone for the many calls and condolences in the aftermath of the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. We ask for your continued patience and prayers through this tragic time. Please contact law enforcement should you have any information that may be important,” the law firm said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
His company bio says that he graduated from Hampton High School and received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of South Carolina in 1990, “a Juris Doctorate Degree in May 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in November 1994.”
“Alex represents injured persons in all areas of personal injury law, including trucking cases, products liability and wrongful death. He also serves as a part-time Prosecutor for the 14th Judicial Circuit,” the bio says.
That resulted in many convictions and also people sent to death row. They run a family law firm in Hampton that “has won millions of dollars in civil lawsuits,” the newspaper reported, including “relentlessly pursuing those at fault in fatal collisions.” He once assisted his lawyer dad Randolph Murdaugh in a shooting death case.
Campaign finance records show that Alex Murdaugh is a Biden donor.
According to The State, “three generations of Murdaughs have been state prosecutors,” solidifying the family’s power in legal circles. Alex Murdaugh is mentioned in this court case as interviewing a manslaughter defendant. He was previously president of a statewide association of plaintiff lawyers.
“Alexander, a former Rho No. II, is a Hampton, SC attorney and serves as the Assistant Solicitor for the 14th Judicial Circuit. He completed his term as President of the South Carolina Association for Justice in 2016. Brother Murdaugh is now on the Board of the Arnold Fields Community Endowment and was Chairman of the Hampton County Democratic Party from 1996-2006,” says a short bio on the page of the Kappa Alpha Order.
According to Greenville Journal, he once helped set up a website to get motorists payment for potholes, saying, “In the long term, we hope lawmakers can set aside their political differences to pass a bill with a stable source of funding that will fix our roads once and for all. Until that happens, the ‘Payment for Potholes’ Web portal will temporarily ease the burden on drivers at no cost to them.”
5. Alex Murdaugh Is Being Sued in Connection With a Fatal Boating Accident Involving Paul Murdaugh
Paul Murdaugh was facing pending felony charges in the boating death of Mallory Beach, 19. The Beach family released this statement to WJCL through an attorney:
The Beach Family extends its deepest and warmest sympathies to the Murdaugh family during this terrible time. Having suffered the devastating loss of their own daughter, the family prays that the Murdaughs can find some level of peace from this tragic loss. They would like the family and the community to know that their thoughts and continued prayers are with the Murdaughs. It is their most sincere hope that someone will come forward and cooperate with authorities so that the perpetrator of these senseless crimes can be brought to justice.
Beach died in a boating crash near Beaufort, South Carolina, in 2019, and, according to The State, two teens were “suspected of driving the boat while drunk.” One of them was Paul Murdaugh. He was facing three felony counts of boating under the influence at the time of his death, according to The Island Packet.
According to The State, the Triton boat owned by Alex Murdaugh rammed into a bridge, ejecting six passengers ages 19 and 20. Only Beach died.
Police alleged the survivors were “grossly intoxicated,” The State reported.
According to The Island Packet, Renee Beach, Mallory’s mom, filed a lawsuit against former solicitor Randolph Murdaugh III, his son Richard Alexander Murdaugh, and his grandson Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr. — Paul’s older brother Buster. The suit alleged that Buster Murdaugh allowed Paul Murdaugh, who the outlet said was not named in the suit, to use his ID to buy alcohol.
According to WSAV-TV, depositions in that case alleged that Paul Murdaugh was “drunk and belligerent,” even acting “like he was on drugs,” and he refused people’s attempts to get him to stop driving the boat. He was described as “crazy drunk,” and his girlfriend, another woman (not Beach), alleged he “slapped her and spit on her as she sat on a cooler,” the television station reported.
Paul Murdaugh’s case was pending at the time of his death and hadn’t changed since “his bond was modified to allow him to travel” in July 2019, The Island Packet reported.
In addition, authorities, after the murders of Maggie and Paul, reopened the investigation into the death of Stephen Smith, 19, in 2015 in Hampton County. Authorities did not explain whether there was a suspected connection. Smith died in a hit-and-run, possibly struck by the mirror of a passing car, Live5News reported. He had run out of gas, but his family doesn’t believe the official account of how he died.
“He called his sister one night he ran out of gas and he hid in the woods and would not come out until he was sure it was her. We know for a fact it was not a hit and run. Stephen would not have been in the roadway,” said Sandy Smith, his mother, to Live5News.
On her Facebook page, Maggie Murdaugh posted multiple photos showing her with her husband and their two sons. In 2020, she wrote a tribute to Alex for Father’s Day: “Happy Happy Father’s Day to the best who everybody loves❤️ Thank you for all u do for our family. You work so hard for your family and our kids r so lucky! Dad,Coach,Teacher and best friend😘”
She also posted pictures of previous family trips to “Moselle,” including quail hunting excursions.
Alex Murdaugh’s Facebook page contains only a few visible posts of his sons. On LinkedIn, he says only that he’s a lawyer from Hampton, South Carolina. He wrote on Facebook after the murders, “My account has been hacked. Do not except any new friend requests from me.”
Paul Murdaugh’s Facebook page shows photos of him hunting and with family, but the last publicly visible post is from 2013.