by JENN WOOD
The name Curtis “Eddie” Smith first appeared in the perpetually expanding Murdaugh crime and corruption saga on September 14, 2021 when he was arrested in connection with the suspicious September 4, 2021 shooting of disbarred and disgraced South Carolina attorney, Alex Murdaugh. Since that time, we have gotten a clearer picture of just how connected this 62-year-old accused drug dealer/ check casher was to Murdaugh through additional court filings and indictments.
Murdaugh, 54, has been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the June 7, 2021 shootings of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Maggie and Paul were killed at Moselle – the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre hunting property next to the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.
Paul Murdaugh was hit by a pair of shotgun blasts on that fateful evening – one to the head, the other to the arm and chest. Maggie Murdaugh was killed by multiple shots fired from a semi-automatic rifle at or around the time her son was killed. At least two of Maggie Murdaugh’s gunshot wounds were reportedly inflicted as she was laying wounded on the ground – consistent with initial reports we received of “execution-style” slayings.
Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to those charges. He is scheduled to stand trial beginning on January 23, 2023 in Walterboro, S.C.
As the beginning of Murdaugh’s double homicide trial approaches, a recent report by Ted Clifford of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper indicates prosecutors in the office of attorney general Alan Wilson have subpoenaed Smith to appear as a witness in the upcoming trial.
Their rationale in doing so? It is not immediately clear – although Smith certainly could be asked to expound upon the state’s theory of Murdaugh’s alleged motive for these crimes.
In addition to the charges relating to the roadside shooting, Smith has been accused of cashing more than 400 checks totaling at least $2.4 million at the behest of Murdaugh – funds which prosecutors allege supported “a myriad (of) unlawful activities” from 2013 through 2021. He is also staring down a slew of charges relating to drug trafficking with Murdaugh which were filed in an indictment in June.
In the months leading up to the trial, Murdaugh’s high-powered criminal defense team have worked diligently – and some say effectively – to begin creating reasonable doubt in the minds of prospective jurors. Smith has been a key component of this strategy – leaving many to wonder if the state has plans to utilize Smith to poke significant holes in the defense’s case.
Sowing the seeds of reasonable doubt in the minds of the public and the jury is a critical part of any criminal defense strategy. Murdaugh’s attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, have been working hard ahead of the trial to shape this narrative through pre-trial motions – including a bombshell motion to compel that was filed on October 14, 2022.
That motion requested the court to order the State to “produce all polygraph data, examiner notes, and quality control notes related to the polygraph examination of Curtis ‘Eddie’ Smith on May 5, 2022” along with requesting the state to provide all evidence they collected in search warrants executed at Smith’s home on September 7, 2021 and regarding Smith’s phone in September 2021 along with any records of interviews conducted with his girlfriend, Donna Eason. Additionally, the motion requested that the state disclose the results of all DNA testing done on Smith and if not, provide information explaining why testing wasn’t conducted.
The revelation Smith failed a polygraph examination administered by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – the agency probing the murders of Murdaugh’s wife and younger son – was described as a “bolt out of the blue” when it was filed. The motion marked the first time anyone had suggested anyone other than Murdaugh was involved in the killings.
During the polygraph examination, deception was indicated in Smith’s responses to the following questions …
- Did you shoot either of those people at that property on Moselle Road?
- Did you shoot either of those people at that property on Moselle Road last June?
- Were you present when either of those people were shot at that property on Moselle Road?
“In other words, Smith lied when asked ‘did you shoot’ Maggie or Paul, lied when asked the same question a second time, and lied when asked if he was present when they were shot,” Murdaugh’s attorneys wrote.
Based on this failed polygraph, Harpootlian and Griffin accused Smith of committing the murders their client was charged with committing.
“The state is turning a blind eye to the obvious, that the reason Smith failed the polygraph when asked if he murdered Maggie and Paul is because he in fact did commit these heinous crimes,” the attorneys noted.
Smith provided investigators with the names of three individuals who could place him at his home at the time the murders were believed to have taken place. According to the filing, Smith even shared a detailed story blaming “Paul and unnamed groundskeeper” for the murders.
“Maggie had a thing going on with the groundskeeper which I never met him, don’t know his name … and Paul went down into one of the barns and caught him and he got upset and he went and got his rifle and was hollering and screaming his mama his mama was running and she fell down and she got up, he shot her in the ass and the bullet come out the top of her head and then he turned to the groundskeeper guy,” Smith told the investigator. “But the groundskeeper already went to his truck and got a shotgun.”
Polygraph examinations are not typically admissible in court as evidence. They are, however, commonly used tools to aid in the direction of an investigation.
Shortly thereafter Smith’s attorney – Aimee Zmroczek of Columbia, S.C. – blasted Harpootlian and Griffin for violating a protective order in the case which she insisted put “inadmissible, improper evidence” into the public eye.
(Click to view)
Zmroczek also challenged prosecutors to test Smith’s DNA and compare it with evidence collected at the Moselle crime scene.
“We welcome any DNA testing,” she said. “(Smith) voluntarily gave his DNA over a year ago. They’ve had his DNA and they can test it … it can only help our case.”
The subpoena of Smith by the prosecution seems to indicate that the state is confident in their investigation – and that despite Harpootlian and Griffin’s best efforts, using Smith to sow reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors would not be successful.
Whether or not Smith will actually testify is unknown. He is facing multiple charges relating to his role in Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes, the roadside shooting, and in a seemingly expanding drug trafficking investigation. His bond was revoked in August due to violations in the conditions of the terms of the bond and he has been in Lexington County Jail since then under protective custody.
Smith could conceivably invoke his fifth amendment right not to testify. Reached for comment this week, Zmroczek declined to tip her hand.
“Eddie Smith was a common man now in an uncommon situation,” she said. “His lawyer, a man whose family he respected dragged him into this world to use him as a patsy. One of the many fall guys Murdaugh is stepping on to try and keep his feet clean. Eddie is a hard blue-collar worker and a people pleaser who now finds himself broken, stuck in jail, and the target for a crime he didn’t commit.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is the director of research at FITSNews. She is also a producer on our Cheer Incorporated podcast and our resident expert on the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga. Wood is a wife and mother of two residing in Louisiana, but she will be in the Palmetto State for the duration of the upcoming double homicide trial.