Susan Smith, an informant, and Mark Putnam, an FBI agent, were lovers whose steamy affair ended tragically in Pike County. Susan Smith, also referred to as Susan Daniels Smith, was murdered in 1989 because she was pregnant, a fact he tried to keep hidden from his superiors at the FBI office and his wife. After more than a year, Mark Putnam finally led police to her remains, the New York Times reported.
The FBI Informant Who Talked Too Much
She was just a country gal. But there was something about Susan Smith that Mark Putnam found attractive—he’d later admit it was her smile, and others who knew her said she had a heart as big as Kentucky. Even though Mark didn’t think she was very attractive, many around Pikeville considered her pretty. Susan Daniels Smith never left the house without her make-up on her face, and she knew how to arrange her hair in a way that made her sexy. She grew up poor and never improved her life economically, which made her feel terrible when she was around Mark and his wife, wife Kathy.
Often fantasizing about leaving Pikeville, Susan Daniels Smith wanted better for herself and the kids. By all accounts, the popular, free-spirited woman was a good mother. Taking a job as an informant for the local police and later FBI agent Mark Putnam seemed like an exciting but dangerous choice that allowed her to escape the boredom of small-town life.
She didn’t have to go far. Police wanted her to spy on a man named Carl Lockhart, aka Cat Eyes, a handsome but violent bank robber, who took up residence in her home and who was her husband’s close friend.
Susan’s sister, Shelby Ward, tried to warn her that her lifestyle wouldn’t end well. And Shelby was very concerned about Susan’s involvement with Mark Putnam. In fact, she begged Susan to leave him alone.
Susan Smith became friends with her lover’s wife and tried to become the person he desired. For example, she bought FBI agent Mark Putnam gifts and cut her hair short to look more like his wife, Kathy. She became bolder, too, often calling the house at all hours of the night and asking for Mark in a more confident and demanding tone.
He seemed to have it all—the perfect wife and kids. He wasn’t the kind of guy to chase women. Those who knew him said he was a respectable man, who loved his wife, and that Susan enticed and seduced him into the affair.
Putnam’s wife distanced herself from Susan when it became obvious she was interested in her husband. Kathy also noticed that Susan was high most of the time she was around them. Known as a big liar who often exaggerated, Susan Smith wasn’t discreet about the affair. The eager woman wanted Mark Putnam so much that she told everyone he planned to leave his wife because they were in love.
In over his head, Mark Putnam tried to get away from his mistress by reassigning her to another agent, and he thought a transfer to Miami would remedy the problem. However, he had to come back to Pikeville to tie up some loose ends on a case he had worked. The return to Pikeville would ruin their lives forever and throw their world into a tailspin.
On the night of the murder, Mark drove Susan to an isolated location, where she told him she was pregnant with his child. Mark told her he had no plans to be with her and that it would be better to have an abortion or to let him adopt the baby and raise it with Kathy. This enraged Susan, and in the heat of the moment, Mark Putnam strangled her in the car.
For days, Susan’s sister, Shelby, hadn’t heard from her. Days turned into weeks. And weeks turned into a year. Mark Putnam finally broke down and confessed to the murder and led police to her body. According to The FBI Killer book, Mark Putnam claimed he only slept with her a few times and was not in love with her—when in fact—court records show Mark Putnam had intimate relations with his informant many times, and investigators had seedy motel room documentation to back it up. Mark even slept with Susan Daniels Smith at his home when Kathy was away.
Mark Putnam said Susan Daniels Smith didn’t look pregnant when he killed her. However, a photo of her right before her death contradicts this. He also told police he only choked her, yet she had two missing molars as if she was struck. It is the opinion of many that this was a crime of passion and that Mark hadn’t premeditated the murder. According to Kathy Putnam, her husband’s behavior changed completely over the summer of 1989. He dealt with bouts of diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, stopped going for his morning jog, lost weight, and developed an itching problem.
At the crime scene, police noted that some of Susan Smith’s remains were scattered over the area by animals. Her sister’s gold necklace and Susan’s brightly colored fingernails were also found at the scene. According to a report, her body rolled down the hill, got caught on something, and later rested where she was found. Mark stated that before dumping the body he took off the shorts she was wearing, which were his and too big for her, and a shirt that she borrowed from him. She was not wearing any panties at the time.
During Mark Putnam’s trial, Shelby Ward showed up to the courtroom with a gun in her purse. She claimed she didn’t know she had it.
Updates regarding Susan Smith’s children
“I live in Freeburn, where this took place. I went to school with Adam Daniels (graduated with him and his nephew Allen). Yes, Adam was swept away in flooding, his body (as far as I know) was never recovered. Susan’s son, Brady, was shot and killed. The motive was never made public, but it was assumed to be a dr–g deal gone bad. It was kept hush-hush and I do not know who shot him. He had gotten in with the wrong crowd, and around the time of his death, several dr–g-related shootings happened in our small town. Susan’s daughter Meranda still lives here. I see her on a daily basis when she takes her children to the school my kids attend.
TV Crime Sky went dug deep to find out where Mark Putnam is today.
Mark Putnam was released in 2000 after serving only ten years of the sixteen years he was sentenced to federal prison. He was a model inmate, and he left the Massachusetts prison a changed man. He began a new life in Florida and visited with Kathy’s parents, who still loved him very much. Today, he is remarried, works as a personal trainer in Georgia, and is well-liked in his community. He is allegedly very open about the case and is truly sorry for what happened. In 2016, he worked as a consultant on the film about his life called Above Suspicion, also known as Blood Mountain.
Mark Putnam was the first FBI agent ever convicted of manslaughter. In addition to the book, Susan Smith and Mark Putnam inspired a made-for-television movie and an upcoming movie about the murder. According to Bonnie’s Blog of Crime, you can catch up on the story in the following places.
Betrayed By Love (Old Lifetime movie)
Above Suspicion (Blood Mountain/2019 movie)
Betrayed: episode “No Escape” (Investigation Discovery documentary series)
The Perfect Suspect: episode “Kentucky Confidential” (Investigation Discovery documentary series)
In Plain Sight: episode “Secrets Can Kill”
Above Suspicion Trailer: Based on Shocking True Story
[Main image via the files of Traciy Curry-Reyes]