by JENN WOOD
As the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga approaches a point of critical mass, one of the key potential witnesses in the upcoming double homicide trial of disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh is making headlines … again.
Aimee Zmroczek – the attorney for Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer/ check casher, Curtis “Eddie” Smith – filed a motion this week which provided additional details from a bizarre September 2021 roadside shooting incident (and the criminal investigation that followed it). Smith is facing fraud and weapons charges after allegedly shooting Murdaugh in the head during a staged suicide on September 4, 2021 – almost three months after the graphic murders of Murdaugh’s wife and son.
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.
The September 4, 2021 roadside shooting took place on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, S.C. Murdaugh’s attorney’s initially claimed he was 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, thanks to shifting, conflicting stories provided to members of the mainstream media.
And coverage from FITSNews, of course …
On September 14, 2021, agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) issued an arrest warrant for Smith which alleged that Murdaugh “provided (him) 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.”
Smith has also been accused of cashing more than 400 checks totaling at least $2.4 million at the behest of Murdaugh – funds which prosecutors claim supported “a myriad (of) unlawful activities” from 2013 through 2021. Smith is also staring down a slew of drug trafficking charges with Murdaugh – which were filed in an indictment in June of 2022.
The biggest headlines involving Smith, though, were generated in October of 2022 when Murdaugh’s attorneys – accused Smith of being the triggerman in the Moselle double homicide based on a failed polygraph examination.
Smith’s attorney flatly refuted that allegation – and challenged investigators to test his DNA with evidence found at the crime scene.
Zmroczek’s motion asked the court to unseal and designate the identity of witnesses referenced in an affidavit supporting a search warrant signed by S.C. circuit court judge Carmen Mullen on September 7, 2021 in the aftermath of the roadside shooting. The motion stated that SLED interviewed Murdaugh twice – once on September 4, 2021 and again on September 5, 2021. In both interviews, Murdaugh told SLED he was shot in the head by an unknown assailant and described the vehicle as a “newer model dark blue Chevrolet or GMC 4-door truck”.
SLED agents were immediately suspicious of the narrative Murdaugh provided. Officers located a pocket knife a short distance from the scene with Murdaugh’s DNA on it and reviewed footage from a nearby surveillance camera which showed no vehicle matching the description provided in his interviews.
At this point, investigators shifted the focus of their inquiries to Murdaugh.
(Click to view)
“In the course of the investigation, SLED agents received information from witnesses to be named later that Murdaugh had been involved in the use of narcotics and that he may have been receiving them from an individual named Curtis Smith,” one agent stated in an affidavit provided to Mullen.
The motion filed by Smith’s attorneys added emphasis to the phrase “to be named later.”
SLED’s affidavit further noted that employees of Murdaugh’s former law firm – individuals who were also “to be identified later” were provided with a picture of Smith. These individuals identified Smith as a former client of the firm.
During a September 13, 2021 interview with SLED, Murdaugh presented an entirely new story to investigators in which he explained, in their words, that “the shooting was part of an pre-planned suicide for the purposes of ensuring that insurance proceeds could be obtained for (Murdaugh)’s children.”
Smith was arrested the next day. He denied any involvement in the alleged scheme.
Smith’s defense team asked the court to unseal and affirmatively identify the witnesses referenced in the affidavit – stating there is sufficient evidence casting doubt on the credibility of the sources of the allegations contained in the affidavit. These parties had “motive (perhaps planned in advance) to purposefully deflect attention away from their own culpability, and instead direct law enforcement’s attention towards (Smith),” the motion added.
The motion also cited the existence of a small group surrounding Murdaugh which he dubbed the “Tombstone Friends.” During an interview with SLED, an employee of Murdaugh’s firm claimed to have had no knowledge of a settlement conducted between Murdaugh and another local attorney – nor did he ever cash any checks on Murdaugh’s behalf. This same employee told SLED that Murdaugh “was big on loyalty and had several friends he called ‘Tombstone Buddies.’”
The employee proceeded to identify himself and three other individuals as members of this group – stating that Smith was not considered to be a “Tombstone Buddy.”
A second interview with the same unnamed law firm employee was conducted on February 8, 2022 in which he admitted that he lied to investigators in his previous interview. The employee admitted to investigators that he had served as a personal representative in a case with the other local attorney – representing another party in the lawsuit.
The employee admitted to investigators that his shifting stories “didn’t make him look good.”
In another “revision” of his prior remarks, the employee admitted he had indeed cashed checks for Murdaugh – and returned the money to him in envelopes. He also identified two additional members of the so-called “tombstone friends” and elaborated on the term – describing these individuals as “friend(s) you could tell something, and that friend would take the information to their grave.”
The two “friends” he identified? The same local attorney, the police chief of a nearby local municipality and a county fire chief. It is unknown whether the police chief is Greg Alexander of Yemassee, S.C. who has been the subject of many articles by this news outlet – and who received a $5,000 “loan” from Murdaugh just one month after the homicides.
Smith’s defense team stated in its motion that he was entitled to know the identities of the individuals named in the investigation of the roadside shooting in order to provide an adequate defense.
A footnote to the motion laid out another compelling point.
“Due to the fact that some of these reports were provided to defense counsel in conjunction with separate but related cases currently pending with the state grand jury, defense counsel, out of an abundance of caution and in deference to the protective order(s) in place on those charges, has not included those reports as exhibits to this motion,” Zmroczek wrote.
(Click to view)
Smith has been incarcerated at the Lexington County detention center for the last five months after his bond on multiple charges related to this saga was revoked by S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman.
The man known as “Cousin Eddie” has previously called Murdaugh “one of my best friends.”
“He’s like a brother to me,” Smith told WCIV TV-4 (ABC – Charleston, S.C.) in September of 2021.
Sources close to Smith say his health has declined precipitously in the last few months since his bond was revoked, with one describing him as being “in really bad shape.”
Zmroczek declined to comment on Smith’s health or any other matters related to his pending cases, saying only that her filing in the fourteenth circuit “speaks for itself.”
THE FILING …motion-to-unseal-designate-clocked-copy-00436437xb7473
(Via: S.C. Fourteenth Judicial Circuit)
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. Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at email@example.com.
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Maybe the “Tombstone Friends” were all Ehlick’s “Huckleberries”?
Great article Jenn Wood! I always look forward to your insights.
This reporter is blowing away the ladies that left fitsnews. so much more profesional.
Jenn, will/can you clarify if Colleton County Fire Chief Barry McRoy (who testified at the Murdaugh trial) is the “county fire chief” mentioned in this article by the lawyer? Thanks!