As this news outlet exclusively reported earlier tonight, the first arrest was made on Tuesday evening in connection with the suspicious September 4, 2021 shooting of prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh – the central figure in the ongoing ‘Murdaugh Murders’ true crime saga.
Judging by the narrative laid out in the initial arrest warrants, however, the next apprehension appears to be imminent …
Warrants for the arrest of 61-year-old Curtis Edward “Eddie” Smith – who has been described by sources close to the Murdaugh family as Alex’s “personal drug dealer” – named Murdaugh as a “co-defendant” in his own roadside shooting ten days ago.
The 53-year-old lawyer – whose prestigious family and powerful law firm are in the midst of a spectacular unspooling – appears to have arranged the entire incident in the hopes of securing a $10 million life insurance payout for his son, Buster Murdaugh.
In fact, Alex Murdaugh has admitted as much, according to investigators with the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – the agecny leading the investigation into the September 4 shooting (as well as several other Murdaugh-related inquiries).
According to an arrest warrant released late Tuesday evening by SLED, Murdaugh allegedly “provided Mr. Smith with a firearm and directed (him) to shoot him in the head for the purpose of causing Mr. Murdaugh’s death and allowing for the payment of a stated death benefit to a beneficiary of the insured.”
The shooting – first reported by this news outlet – took place on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, S.C. In its aftermath, Murdaugh was airlifted to Parker’s Emergency and Trauma Center in Savannah, Georgia to receive treatment for “a superficial gunshot wound to the head,” according to a news release from SLED.
The incident refocused national attention on this saga – which involves one of the most prominent, powerful families in the state. From 1920-2006, three generations of Murdaughs served as solicitor (or district attorney) for a five-county region in the southernmost portion of the Palmetto State – controlling the levers of justice in Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
“Nobody in any of those counties got elected or appointed without the Murdaughs approval,” a source close to the family told me over the weekend.
According to Murdaugh’s attorney, Jim Griffin, Murdaugh was allegedly shot by a passerby while trying to change one of the ‘run-flat’ tires on the Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle he was driving. This narrative began falling apart almost immediately, however – and Griffin didn’t help his client by pushing shifting, conflicting stories to members of the mainstream media.
Now, investigators have pieced together what they believe really happened on this rural roadside …
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“Mr. Smith followed Mr. Murdaugh to Old Salkehatchie Road and shot Mr. Murdaugh as he stood in the roadway,” one of the probable cause affidavits noted. “After shooting Mr. Murdaugh in the head, Mr. Smith drove to an unknown location where he disposed of the firearm. Mr. Murdaugh survived the shooting and was transported to the hospital for treatment.”
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 ten million dollars,” according to a probable cause affidavit accompanying one of the warrants for Smith’s arrest.
As for Smith, he “admitted to being present during the shooting of Mr. Murdaugh and to disposing of the firearm afterwards,” the warrant noted.
Smith is facing multiple charges including assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in connection with the shooting. He is also facing two unrelated drug charges: Distribution of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.
“Additional charges in the case are expected and will be announced at the appropriate time,” the SLED release noted.
While the agency declined to confirm whether Alex Murdaugh would be charged in connection with the September 4 shooting, the warrants for Smith’s arrest clearly implicated him in illegal activity – which would suggest charges against him are imminent.
Worth recalling? Alex Murdaugh is one of the central figures in an ongoing investigation into whether his powerful family obstructed justice in the aftermath of a 2019 boat crash. In the early morning hours of February 24, 2019, his youngest son – 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh – allegedly crashed a 17-foot, center console fishing boat into the piling of a bridge in Beaufort county, S.C. That crash claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. and injured several others. The obstruction investigation into the Murdaughs is currently before a statewide grand jury in Columbia, S.C.
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Additionally, Alex Murdaugh remains a ‘person of interest’ in connection with a brutal double homicide that killed his son, Paul Murdaugh, and his wife – 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh – on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh told police he discovered the bodies of his son and his wife when he arrived at the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property that evening following a visit to see his mother. No arrests have been made in connection with that case, nor have police named any suspects.
Most recently, embezzlement allegations were hastily leveled against Murdaugh by his erstwhile partners at the prestigious Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED) law firm. These allegations were made public less than forty-eight hours after this news outlet exclusively reported on the September 4 roadside shooting – and less than two hours after I exclusively reported that Murdaugh was allegedly battling an opioid addiction and had become “increasingly estranged from colleagues at his law firm.”
Over the weekend, I published a detailed recap on this facet of the saga – one which raised numerous questions about the nature and timing of the law firm’s allegations.
On Monday, SLED announced that it had opened a criminal investigation into the financial allegations raised by PMPED – a move which significantly escalated the saga.
“The SLED investigation of the Murdaugh firm’s finances is potentially very, very huge,” one attorney following the investigation told me Tuesday. “It’s one thing to hire a private forensic accountant. It’s quite another for your firm to be inundated by SLED agents with subpoena/ warrant authority.”
While we await an update on the status of that investigation, Smith will await his turn before a judge on the charges he is facing in connection with the botched September 4 shooting.
Smith was booked at the Colleton county detention center on Tuesday afternoon. As my news outlet reported on Friday, his case will be prosecuted by S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – whose office appears poised to handle all of the cases related to the Murdaugh family.
As with anyone accused of committing any crime, Smith is considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system – or until such time as he may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges filed against him.
THE WARRANTS …
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that St. Louis Cardinals’ bird lid pictured above).
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