Curtis ‘Cousin Eddie’ Smith released on bond one month after Alex Murdaugh’s murder conviction

Rachel Sharp
Monday 03 April 2023 21:23 BST
Craziest courthouse moments from the Alex Murdaugh trial

The man who allegedly shot Alex Murdaugh in the head in a bizarre botched hitman plot has been released on bond – one month after the disgraced attorney was convicted of murdering his wife and son.

Curtis “Cousin Eddie” Smith – a former law firm client, distant cousin and alleged drug dealer of Murdaugh – appeared in Richland County Courthouse in South Carolina on Monday afternoon where Judge Clifton Newman agreed to reinstate his $250,000 bond and release him on house arrest.

In his ruling, Judge Newman acknowledged Mr Smith’s continued cooperation with authorities. Prosecutors did not object to his release on bond, noting how he had agreed to testify against Murdaugh in his trial earlier this year. That testimony never came to pass.

Mr Smith’s attorneys noted how being in jail has caused a decline in health, with the defendant himself telling Judge Newman: “My sugar’s off the charts.”

He said that he’s gained 55 pounds while incarcerated.

Mr Smith’s release comes with strict bond conditions, including a GPS monitor and confinement to his home except when going to work.

Judge Newman stressed that should he violate those conditions, the court would meet Mr Smith with “no deviation, no leniency, no latitude in any way”.

Mr Smith affirmed he understood the judge’s warning.

Mr Smith is facing a string of charges over the September 2021 incident where he allegedly shot Murdaugh along the side of a road in Hampton County in an assisted suicide scheme.

The incident unfolded on 4 September 2021 – three months on from the 7 June 2021 double murders of Maggie and Paul and one day after Murdaugh was ousted from his law firm for stealing millions of dollars in funds.

Murdaugh called 911, claiming he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting while he was changing a tire on his vehicle.

He was taken to hospital where he was treated for what police called a “superficial gunshot wound to the head”.

For several days he kept up the lie, and even spent hours constructing an imaginary assailant with a police sketch artist.

But, Murdaugh’s story about the incident quickly unravelled.

One week later on 13 September, he confessed to law enforcement that he had orchestrated the whole saga, asking Mr Smith to shoot and kill him in an assisted suicide plot so that his surviving son Buster could get a $12m life insurance windfall.

Both he and Mr Smith were arrested and charged over the incident.

In June 2022, Mr Smith was also charged in connection to Murdaugh’s financial fraud schemes and is accused of helping him with a drug and $2.4m money laundering ring.

He was initially released on $250,000 bond and ordered to submit to drug testing and GPS monitoring.

Curtis Edward Smith in Richland County Court in June 2022
Curtis Edward Smith in Richland County Court in June 2022 (2022 The State Newspaper)

However he was ordered back to jail in August 2022 after he was found to have violated the terms of his bond by going on several trips to grocery stores and private homes.

Mr Smith had also allegedly misled the court about how much money he had at the time – telling the court he had no money when the judge was setting bond.

It later transpired that he had more than $50,000 in a bank account at the time, according to prosecutors.

Now, after Monday’s latest court hearing, Mr Smith is awaiting trial on a string of charges involving Murdaugh including assisted suicide, assault and battery of a highly aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, money laundering, forgery, and trafficking methamphetamine.

Mr Smith’s name repeatedly cropped up during Murdaugh’s murder trial – a trial that was dubbed South Carolina’s “trial of the century”.

Murdaugh was convicted of gunning down Maggie and Paul on the family’s 1,700-acre estate back on 7 June 2021.

Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun while he stood in the feed room of the dog kennels – the second shot to his head blowing his brain almost entirely out of his skull.

After killing Paul, prosecutors said Murdaugh then grabbed a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on Maggie as she tried to flee from her husband.

She was shot five times including twice in the head after she had fallen to her knees.

Prior to Murdaugh’s murder trial, the disgraced attorney’s legal team sought to raise questions as to whether Mr Smith may have had some involvement in Maggie and Paul’s murders.

In October, the defence claimed that Mr Smith failed a lie detector test when asked where he was on the night of 7 June 2021.

During the murder trial, the defence failed to provide any evidence that Mr Smith – or anyone else – could have been responsible for the murders and he was not called as a witness for either the state or the defence.

The jury determined beyond reasonable doubt that it was Murdaugh who murdered his family members.

Defendant Alex Murdaugh gives testimony during his murder trial
Defendant Alex Murdaugh gives testimony during his murder trial (AP)

Following the verdict, Mr Smith released a statement through his attorney saying that Murdaugh’s murder conviction had exonerated him of the baseless suggestions he could have been involved in the slayings.

“It should now be clear that our client had nothing to do with the tragic deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh,” said the statement from Mr Smtih’s attorneys T. Jarrett Bouchette and Aimee Zmroczek.

“For almost a year and a half, speculation, innuendo, half truths and outright falsehoods have permeated the public discussion of this case and our client however, neither the investigation conducted by law enforcement, which included extensive forensic and technological analysis, nor the testimony and evidence put forward by the defence team for Mr Murdaugh revealed any evidence that Mr Smith was in any way involved.”

The statement added: “Mr Smith is a good and decent man who was, like so many others, manipulated and taken advantage of by Mr Murdaugh and we look forward to the opportunity to present his story at trial.”

Murdaugh is also facing trial on more 100 charges over the multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and roadside shooting cases.

But, whatever the outcome in those cases, he will now die behind bars after he was sentenced him to life in prison.

Last week, he was placed in an undisclosed high security prison in the state where he will be kept away from other inmates for his own safety.

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