Man charged with assisted suicide in shooting of well-known South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh for $10 million insurance payout

By Lana Ferguson, Kacen Bayless, Jake Shore and John Monk

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Walterboro man was arrested in Colleton County on Tuesday in the Sept. 4 shooting of Alex Murdaugh, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Curtis Edward Smith, 61, is facing one count each of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to a Tuesday night news release.

Smith is accused of conspiring with Murdaugh to assist Murdaugh’s suicide, according to arrest warrants.

According to the warrants, Murdaugh gave Smith a gun and told him to shoot Murdaugh in the head so Murdaugh’s son could receive a $10 million insurance payout. Alex Murdaugh’s sole surviving son is Buster Murdaugh.

Smith later threw the gun away in an undisclosed location, an affidavit in the case says.

Murdaugh admitted to the botched scheme in a statement to SLED on Monday, according to the warrants.

Smith’s arrest is the latest surprising turn of events in an ongoing case that has captivated the state and involves grisly murders, the death of a young woman in a deadly boat crash, the alleged theft of millions and the fall from prominence of what was once one of South Carolina’s most respected legal families — the Murdaughs, three generations of whom held the solicitor’s office in the southeastern part of the state for more than 80 years.

Murdaugh, 53, was airlifted to a Savannah hospital and treated for “a superficial gunshot wound to the head,” according to SLED.

The shooting occurred after Murdaugh pulled off Salkehatchie Road in Hampton County because he was experiencing car trouble, his lawyer Jim Griffin previously said. Murdaugh pulled over and got out of his car when a blue pickup truck passed by, Griffin said Murdaugh told law enforcement officers. The truck turned around, he said. The driver drove back to Murdaugh, “rolled his window down, came to a stop, and asked if he had car trouble,” Griffin said, then shot Murdaugh.

Murdaugh called 911 and reported the shooting himself, but the audio of that call has not been released by law enforcement.

Two days after the shooting, Murdaugh released a statement announcing he was resigning from his family’s law firm and entering drug treatment.

Hours later, his law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth Detrick, released a statement accusing Murdaugh of taking money from the firm, saying the firm confronted him on Sept. 3, and Murdaugh’s response was that he intended to resign. SLED announced earlier this week that it was investigating the allegations of missing money. The amount of money is question is around $5 million, a source familiar with the case said.

The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which prosecutes cases for five counties, said Murdaugh would no longer be authorized to volunteer with the agency or prosecute cases on its behalf. The South Carolina Supreme Court suspended his law license.

The arrest in Murdaugh’s shooting comes in the midst of national attention on the unsolved murders June 7 of Murdaugh’s younger son, Paul, and wife, Maggie, at their Colleton County estate. Alex Murdaugh called 911 to report that he had discovered their bodies.

Paul Murdaugh, 22, a student at the University of South Carolina, was shot in the head and upper body with a shotgun, while his mother, 52, was killed with what appeared to be an assault rifle, sources familiar with the investigation said, adding that casings were recovered at the scene. Their bodies were found separated from one another.

Their deaths have prompted rumors and speculation, especially in the state’s legal and law enforcement communities, where Alex Murdaugh, his law firm and his family are widely known. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather ran the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office for nearly a century.

Nearly three months after the murders, SLED has yet to make an arrest or announce a suspect or a motive.

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