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Alex Murdaugh was never shot in insurance fraud scheme, alleged shooter tells 'Today' show

BEST AVAILABLE IMAGE of Curtis Edward Smith (copy)

This booking photo shows Curtis Edward Smith on Sept. 14, 2021. Smith was charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and several other counts in the Sept. 4, 2021,  shooting of Alex Murdaugh. Colleton County Detention Center/Provided

The Walterboro man who stands accused of shooting Alex Murdaugh in a botched assisted suicide scheme appeared on a pair of national morning shows Oct. 14 and asserted that the disgraced attorney was never shot at all.

Curtis Edward Smith, a 61-year-old former law client of Murdaugh’s, told NBC's "Today" news anchor Craig Melvin he refused Murdaugh's request to kill him on the side of a rural Hampton County road over Labor Day weekend.

Then, Smith said, he and Murdaugh struggled for a gun that Murdaugh had brought to their meet-up, and it went off.

But Smith said he is "1,000 percent" sure the bullet never hit Murdaugh.

"I didn't shoot him," the handyman and former logger told a national audience. "I'm innocent. If I would have shot him, he'd be dead. He's alive."

In a separate interview with CBS, Smith said he took the gun from the scene and ditched it so that Murdaugh couldn't use it to kill himself.

"If I hadn't took the gun, I don't know what he would have done," Smith said.

Smith's version of the events matches what he has told several national newspapers in the month since his arrest. But it contradicts Murdaugh's story that he enlisted Smith to kill him last month so he could leave behind a $10 million life insurance payout for his remaining son, Buster.

Murdaugh's defense attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, have said the prominent lawyer was in a fit of depression and wanted to die after the unsolved murders of his wife and son in June and his law office's recent discovery that he had stolen money from his clients and the firm.

Murdaugh mistakenly believed his policy wouldn't pay out if he killed himself and thought his death needed to look like a homicide, they have said.

The State Law Enforcement Division accepted Murdaugh's version of the story last month, arresting him and Smith and charging the pair in a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, among other crimes.

Smith shot Murdaugh in the head at the attorney’s request, but the attorney survived the incident and later confessed to the scheme, SLED said at the time.

SLED said Smith had admitted to being at the scene at the time of the shooting and ditching the gun in "an unknown location" afterward.

In response to Smith's Today show interview, Griffin countered Thursday that "Alex was definitely shot in the head."

"This was not something that is open to debate," the Columbia lawyer said. "We will verify it in the coming days."

Griffin has said he has already obtained medical records showing Murdaugh suffered a significant head wound and was bleeding profusely as he was airlifted to a Savannah hospital on the day of the shooting. The attorney said he is still waiting to receive hospital records confirming a gunshot wound and pledged to release them when he does.

Smith told "Today" he saw no blood after the gun went off during the struggle.

"There was no blood on me," he said. "There was no blood on him."

Smith and his attorney, Jonny McCoy, said Murdaugh and his defense team are setting up Smith as a fall guy, and using law enforcement to do it.

They pushed back on assertions by Murdaugh's attorneys that Smith was Murdaugh's longtime drug dealer. "To my knowledge, absolutely not," McCoy said.

McCoy said Smith's story hasn't changed since the shooting, while Murdaugh initially claimed he was shot by an unknown assailant before telling law enforcement that he persuaded Smith to kill him.

back of head.jpg (copy)

The back of Alex Murdaugh’s head appears unscathed during a bond hearing at Hampton County Law Enforcement Center on Sept. 16, 2021, despite his defense team claiming he suffered a gunshot wound to his head earlier this month. Lauren Petracca/Staff

"He's used to people listening to his word, and he's used to people taking that and running with it," McCoy said of Murdaugh.

The Labor Day weekend shooting has attracted international attention as part of a larger murder mystery that began in June when Alex Murdaugh reported finding his wife, Maggie, and son Paul shot to death outside the family's spacious hunting property in Colleton County.

The descendant of a long line of powerful lawyers who held great influence in the southern tip of South Carolina, Murdaugh has seen his personal life and legal career implode in the months since.

He has admitted to a 20-year addiction to opioids and checked himself into rehab.

He was pushed out of the Hampton law office his great-grandfather founded in 1910 after his partners last month accused him of embezzling money.

He was arrested after the alleged staged shooting with Smith. He was sued by the sons of his late housekeeper, who have presented evidence that Murdaugh swindled them out of a $4.3 million wrongful death settlement they were owed.

And his law license was suspended by the state Supreme Court.

McCoy, Smith's attorney, said Murdaugh only blamed Smith for the shooting after his own story began falling apart under scrutiny.

Questions about the shooting have swirled for weeks. They grew even louder after Murdaugh appeared at a bond hearing less than two weeks after the incident without any bandages or visible head wounds.

His attorneys have said entry and exit wounds are visible on Murdaugh's head when sifting through his red-and-grey hair.

McCoy said he has learned that Murdaugh had checked into rehab multiple times for drug addiction, but never kicked it.

He said Murdaugh's attempt to shift blame to Smith is typical behavior for someone battling drug addiction.

"He is doing exactly what people with addict behavior do," McCoy said. "And that is, he tried to turn himself into a victim, and he tried to turn himself into a hero."

Reach Avery Wilks at 803-374-3115. Follow him on Twitter at @AveryGWilks. Send tips to averywilks93@protonmail.com.

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