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Susan Daniels Smith’s story: What really happened to the FBI informant?

Mark putnam

Are you a fan of true crime documentaries? If you are, chances are high that you have already come across Susan Daniels Smith’s story. Her life was marked by hardship and tragedy, leading to her tragic death. Her story is a complex and heartbreaking tale that has generated interest from the public. So, what happened to her? And what is Susan Daniels Smith’s story?

Susan daniels smith
A black and white photo of former FBI agent Mark Putnam (L) and a coloured pic of Susan Daniels Smith (R). Photo: @southfriedtruth on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Susan Daniels Smith’s story is a tragic tale of a life entangled with crime and law enforcement. Her narrative is one of a downward spiral, where circumstances and choices collide to shape a life overshadowed by the consequences of her actions. Susan’s story is an example of how societal issues contribute to the cycle of crime and the challenges individuals like her face in breaking free from its grip.

What is Susan Daniels Smith’s story?

Susan died at the hands of her FBI handler in 1989, where she worked as an American FBI informant. She had helped the FBI and their agent, Mark Putnam, crack a robbery case.

Susan Daniels was born in 1961 in Matewan, West Virginia, USA. Her parents were Sidney “Sid” Daniels, an unemployed and former coal miner, and Tracy Daniels, a housekeeper. Susan was the fifth of nine children. While still an infant, her parents relocated to Freeburn, Kentucky.

Susan attended Freeburn Grade School but dropped out in 7th grade.

Marriage

After dropping out of school in 7th grade, Susan met local substance dealer Kenneth Smith in 1977. Despite their ages of 22 and 15, the pair married and started a family. By 1980, Susan had given birth to two children. However, the couple started having marital problems, mainly due to Kenneth’s life of substance abuse. Susan and Kenneth eventually divorced but shared their home.

What happened to Susan Daniels Smith?

In 1987, an FBI agent named Mark Putnam began an investigation in Pikeville, Kentucky. He was investigating 32-year-old ex-convict and bank robber Carl Edward “Cat Eyes” Lockhart. Lockhart was a friend of Susan’s ex-husband, Kenneth Smith.

A local sheriff’s deputy, Albert Hartfield, recommended Susan to Mark Putnam as an informant. Lured with the chance to earn extra income, Susan took the job. The pair began working together, exchanging information about Lockhart’s criminal activities.

In December 1987, Cat Eyes Lockhart was apprehended and sentenced to 57 years in federal prison on robbery charges. For her role as an informant, Susan received $5,000.

Susan Smith and Mark Putnam’s relationship

While working on the Lockhart case in 1987, Susan and Mark Putnam developed a relationship. The relationship grew to become romantic by mid-1988. However, aware that his fling could damage his career and his family, Putnam signed a plea to be transferred from Kentucky to Florida in early 1989.

However, after a few months from Kentucky, Mark returned in mid-1989 on another unrelated criminal case. After learning of Mark’s return, Daniels contacted him about her pregnancy and told him the baby was his. On receiving the news, Mark insisted that he and his wife Kathy could adopt the baby; however, Susan refused.

Susan Smith’s murder

On 8 June 1989, Mark drove Susan to an isolated location where, after a brief argument, they began to fight. During the fight, Putnam strangled and killed Daniels and placed her body in the trunk of his car.

The next day, he dumped her body along an old coal mining road. Mark then left Kentucky and returned to his family in Florida. After receiving no word on her sister’s whereabouts three days later, Shelby Ward reported Daniels missing.

Mark Putnam’s confession

Mark decided to confess his crime after more than a year, with no leads on Susan’s disappearance. According to the New York Times, on 12 June 1990, former FBI agent Mark Putnam confessed to killing Daniels. He led the police to her remains near an old coal-mining road north of Pikeville. In exchange, Mark was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

In his written confession, Mark said he strangled Daniels in a fit of rage because she was threatening to tell his wife and superiors that she was carrying his child.

For his crime, Mark Putnam received a 16-year prison sentence. However, sometime in 2000, after serving ten years, Mark got out of prison for good behaviour.

What happened to Mark Putnam’s wife?

According to Joe Sharkey, author of Above Suspicion, Kathy Putnam, the wife of Mark Putnam, died in 1998 at the age of 38. She reportedly died of organ failure due to alcoholism. Kathy was found dead in her Manchester, Connecticut, home by her 13-year-old daughter, Danielle.

Is there a movie about Susan Daniels Smith?

Yes, there is. The 2019 American crime thriller film Above Suspicion, based upon Joe Sharkey’s 1993 non-fiction book of the same name, portrays the details of Susan Smith’s murder by an FBI agent.

Who is the real Susan Smith in Above Suspicion? According to IMDb, British actress Emilia Clarke played the role, while Jack Alexander Huston portrayed former FBI agent Mark Putnam.

Wrapping up

Susan Daniels Smith’s story is a tragic tale of a life entangled with crime and law enforcement. She was an FBI informant who had a romantic relationship with her handler. However, the relationship turned tragic after she got pregnant allegedly by her FBI handler. After being informed of the pregnancy, the FBI agent, Mark Putnam, strangled her to cover his relationship.

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Laure Bal

Rédigé par Laure Bal

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