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Sunday, June 13, 2021

The true crime behind Emilia Clarke’s ‘Above Suspicion’

Mark Putnam’s responsible plea on June 12, 1990, was not like any an American courtroom had seen earlier than.

Putnam was a younger FBI agent — and the primary to ever be convicted of murder. The man had confessed to strangling his lover Susan Smith, who not solely labored for him as an informant, however was mentioned to be carrying his unborn baby.

The demise of Smith is the topic of a brand new film starring Emilia Clarke referred to as “Above Suspicion,” out now. The story is a tragic story of how one man’s ambition and one other lady’s wild infatuation collided with lethal penalties.

Connecticut native Putnam was 27 years previous and simply out of the FBI Academy when he discovered himself stationed in Pikeville, Kentucky, a small Appalachian city three hours from Lexington with a virtually unsupervised two-agent outpost. He moved there in 1987 together with his spouse Kathy and their two younger kids. 

Just a few months earlier, a robber had stolen $18,000 in money from a financial institution in close by Meta, Kentucky, and it was as much as the native brokers to determine and catch the thief. After some false leads, they centered in on Carl Edward “Cat Eyes” Lockhart, an area eccentric and repeat offender who had a pesky behavior of wildly spending his loot.

“Cat Eyes’ chief virtues were gregariousness, loquaciousness and generosity,” wrote Joe Sharkey in his e-book “Above Suspicion.” “Qualities admirable in law-abiding citizens, but problematic in bank robbers.”

The companions approached Lockhart’s finest pal, Kenneth Smith, and his 25-year-old ex-wife Susan Smith. Despite now not being married, they nonetheless lived collectively. But Kenneth proved unreliable, so Putnam picked Susan to be an informant as a substitute. 

In the movie, Susan Smith (Emilia Clarke) has a rocky relationship along with her ex-husband, Kenneth Smith, now referred to as Cash (Johnny Knoxville).
©Roadside Attractions/Courtesy

The pair would meet two to 3 instances each week, and Smith rapidly instructed Putnam she believed Lockhart was planning one other heist as a result of she found a duffel bag with two sawed-off shotguns and ski masks of their dwelling, Sharkey writes. Putnam would pay her hundreds of {dollars} for suggestions, whereas she turned more and more enamored along with her handler.

Susan started calling Putnam’s dwelling continually, and his spouse Kathy would decide up the cellphone and play the position of therapist for hours on finish.

“On the one hand, she seemed to have the idea that it was like a regular job, and Mark was her boss,” Kathy says in Sharkey’s e-book. “Then, on the other, I think she saw him and her as Bonnie and Clyde.”

The unusual state of affairs turned extra unhealthy and determined. Besides the nonstop cellphone calls, Susan lower her hair brief to appear to be Kathy’s. For Christmas, she purchased Putnam costly trainers and a Nike shirt — a giant no-no for an FBI informant. One day, Smith went searching for Putnam on the courthouse and flashed her breasts on the safety guards, seemingly to make him jealous.

According to Sharkey’s e-book, a involved Kathy warned her husband: “Don’t you ever get involved with this woman . . . She will get pregnant, and she will ruin you.”

In actual life, FBI agent Mark Putnam was given a 16-year jail sentence for the strangulation demise of Susan Smith.

His marriage strained, Putnam took Susan on a drive via the mountains every week earlier than Christmas, and so they had intercourse in his automobile. Putnam claims the pair made love 5 instances over a two-week interval, simply in that automobile, after which he referred to as the connection quits.

After native townsfolk threatened his household in reference to ongoing circumstances, Putnam was transferred to Miami, a lot to his aid.

But in response to Sharkey, whereas Putnam was away, Susan started fabricating a extra concerned two-year relationship between them and shouting about it from the rooftops. They had been in love, she mentioned, and he or she was pregnant together with his baby.

While visiting Pikeville to wrap up a case, Putnam took Smith on a drive to Peter Creek Mountain one night time. He claims he instructed her he would get a paternity take a look at as soon as the newborn was born, and that he and Kathy would undertake the kid. This threw Smith right into a violent rage. The two bodily fought, and Putnam strangled Smith. Her physique went limp, and the agent realized she was lifeless.

Putnam put Smith’s physique within the trunk of the automobile, the place it stayed for a complete day, till he dumped it right into a roadside ravine the next night time. It would have remained there if not for Putnam, wracked with guilt, confessing to the crime and main investigators to the corpse a year later.

Prosecutor John Paul Runyon was flabbergasted. He told the Associated Press that ″we had completely no proof. Not one scintilla or shred of proof to deliver a cost or convict this man.″

″In the 28 years that I’ve been a prosecutor, that is the primary expertise that I’ve had the place a lawyer referred to as me on a phone and mentioned, ‘I have a man who wants to confess to murder, or homicide, and wants to go to the penitentiary,’ and we had completely no proof.”

Putnam was sentenced to 16 years in jail, however was launched after 10 years, early in 2000, on good conduct. Two years prior, Putnam’s spouse Kathy died of organ failure — doubtless from heavy ingesting — at age 38.

Today, Putnam is remarried and lives in Georgia. But surprisingly, Kathy’s dad and mom all the time caught by their former son-in-law.

“He’s a wonderful man,” her mom Carol Ponticelli told the Hartford Courant when he was let loose of jail. “It was a crime of passion.”

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