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Mark Putnam was infamously known as the first FBI agent who was convicted of murder. He had an illicit affair with her informant, Susan Daniels Smith, that further led to her murder. Above Suspicion was a 2019 film based on this case. The thriller still makes audiences want to find out is Mark Putnam still alive? Let’s find out!
This Mark Putnam Susan Smith story made the headlines for months in the media. An FBI agent snapped, turned homicidal, and strangled his pregnant informant, choking her to death in the heat of a moment, making this case sensational for years to come.
If you just came across this, you too would want to know is Mark Putnam still alive? And if so, where? What about his wife and children?
Let’s start with Mark Putnam, his early life, his career, and the events that led him to meet Susan Smith.
Who is Mark Putnam?
He was born on July 4, 1959, in Coventry, Connecticut, to Barbara Putnam and Walter Putnam.
Mark was the oldest among their three children. His mother was a homemaker, and his father drove a truck for Sears.
In his growing years, Mark was an overachiever, always quite competitive in sports and academics. Even when Putnam was majoring in criminology at the University of Tampa, he loved sports.
To channel his aggression, he dedicated himself to sports with his involvement in extracurricular activities. However, his priority was always to follow his dream to be an FBI agent.
Even being a sports and competitive person, he was an introvert, shy, and a private person.
Mark Putnam Joining the FBI
When he was in college, he shared his dream with his soccer coach that he wanted to become an FBI agent.
He took the first step towards his goal in August 1982 when he joined the FBI’s Connecticut headquarters office as a clerk.
After joining the FBI for an extended period of time, he didn’t stand out. He was working as a telephone switchboard operator during the weekends and night shifts.
Mark barely talked to his seniors and always seemed to be polite in his casual conversations and greetings.
Reportedly, he was a hard-working staff who was always keen to put in extra hours at work and was aiming to become an FBI agent.
Mark Putnam wife and child
Mark Putnam married Kathy Ponticelli, daughter of a wealthy and renowned real-estate developer.
After that, she gave birth to Mark’s first child, a daughter named Danielle. At that time, Mark was still working as a clerk at the FBI.
It was the start of 1986 when he took the entrance exam to get the clerical position in the bureau.
In 1986, he was finally accepted to the FBI Academy, further graduating on October 6, 1986, fulfilling his dream.
Mark Putnam’s First Assignment
Before getting his first significant assignment, he was posted to the Louisville office located in Kentucky.
At that time, his wife Kathy Putnam had already started house-hunting in that neighborhood.
Officially, Mark got his first assignment in February 1987 as reassigned in Pikeville, Kentucky, in a much smaller, basically a two-person office.
When Putnam was reassigned to Pikeville, both of them had already moved to Pikeville, where she was pregnant with their second child.
Kathy didn’t like this new location and wanted Mark to seek a transfer. But Mark’s focus was entirely on his current position at the FBI so he could get a promotion soon.
In order to do that, he put all his energy into compiling an impressive arrest record.
That was the time when Mark started considering himself a streetwise criminal fighter living the ideal life he always dreamed about.
Who was Susan Daniels Smith?
Susan Daniels Smith was born in 1961 in Matewan, West Virginia, after which her family shifted to Freeburn, Kentucky.
Until 7th grade, she attended school in Matewan as she was forced to drop out due to a bad financial situation at her house.
Just five years after her dropout, at the age of 15, Susan met Kenneth Smith and started dating him.
Kenneth was a 22-year-old drug dealer who fell in love with Susan.
As their relationship grew, both started using drugs together. In the late 1970s, Susan and Kenneth got married.
Susan had two children with Kenneth before their divorce. However, even after their divorce, they continued living together.
What happened between Mark Putnam and Susan Smith?
Now, this was the time when Susan Smith and Mark Putnam crossed their paths.
Before Susan, Mark approached Kenneth to be an informant for the FBI. Kenneth put some demands on the table before accepting the job.
At his meeting with Mark, he came with a long list of demands, such as weekly pay, protective custody, and his probation removed.
Upon some investigation, Putnam came to know that Kenneth is totally unreliable, shared by his parole officer.
A part-time cop named Bert Hatfield, who initially recommended Kenneth to Putnam for an informant role, now came up with a new suggestion, i.e., Susan Smith.
So, Mark decided to choose Susan instead of Kenneth to be an FBI informant. When Mark approached Susan, she was a drug addict mother with two children to care for.
Susan definitely went for the extra cash that she could get from Putnam for the job.
Susan Smith Becoming Putnam’s Informant
Smith started working with Mark as his informant. They began meeting twice or thrice a week, which led to the developing trust between them.
She was certainly inclined to become an informant due to her financial situation and the responsibility of two children under her care.
At that time, informants used to get paid pretty well. Once the FBI approves an informant, they hand out more than $5,000 to agents, which they can further distribute at their discretion.
Even if they need more than that, the FBI provides it, provided they produce results.
FBI apprehended Carl Edwards Lockhart, aka “Cat Eyes,” by the end of 1987, which was only possible due to the information provided by Susan Smith.
Apparently, Smith received a full sum of $5,000 from Putnam for this piece of information. Not just that, she also further cooperated during the trial and continued with them on a set payroll.
Change In Relationship Between Putnam And Susan
Since she became a regular informant for the FBI on payroll, her relationship continued with Putnam. However, soon after, the dynamics of their relationship changed. There is no clarity on what led their relationship to change from professional to sexual.
Apparently, they started sleeping together sometime around the year 1988. Now, as per Mark, they have had sex around five times over two-week period, and that too in his car. However, if you ask Susan, she stated that their relationship continued for two years, and it wasn’t just limited to sex.
In this regard, it is about her words against Mark. No one clearly knows what happened between them on a personal level or in their relationship apart from them.
Mark Distancing Himself From Susan
Susan was getting closer and closer to Mark. She made rapport with other probation offers and marshals as well.
Susan also built a relationship with Mark Putnam wife Kathy, as they spoke on the phone for hours.
Meanwhile, Mark continued to grow as an agent in the FBI, solving multiple cases. Soon, around 1989, he started distancing himself from Smith.
Even stopped utilizing her as an informant and pulled away from personal as well as professional relationships with Susan.
He even lied to the bureau about receiving bomb threats so he could get a transfer, which actually worked. He was eventually transferred to Miami, Florida, in the latter part of the year 1989.
Putnam Killing Susan Smith
Mark, after he shifted to Miami, returned to Pikville in the summer of 1989, the same year, due to a car theft case.
Apparently, for the last time, Mark and Susan met. There is no clarity on who approached first.
Putnam took her for a drive up to Peter Creek Mountain. The date was June 8, 1989. That’s when she revealed about her pregnancy and demanded financial support.
They had a heated argument where Mark was adamant about getting a paternity test, which eventually led to him strangling her.
Apparently, Mark Putnam snapped because Susan threatened him that she would tell everything to her wife about the affair and her pregnancy.
Putnam put her body in the trunk of his car and drove around for a day. Eventually, he left the body on a coal mining road the next evening.
Susan’s sister, Shelby Ward, filed a missing complaint for her on June 6.
The Murder Investigation Of Susan Smith
The entire initial investigation of Susan’s disappearance surrounded Kenneth Smith and other related people.
But soon, Mark becomes a potential suspect. Susan’s sister Shelby told the investigation officer that when she last talked to Susan, she was waiting for Mark.
More and more shreds of evidence started pointing out towards Putnam. And finally, he took a polygraph test, which he failed, and confessed to killing Susan.
He also told the officers where to find her body. Mark Putnam further pled guilty in court on June 13, 1990, about him choking Susan to her death.
Is Mark Putnam Still Alive?
Now, The million-dollar questions are – Is Mark Putnam still alive? Where is he now? Who is Mark Putnam married to now, and what do we know about him today?
Well, Putnam signed a confession where he pled guilty to choking Susan Smith to death on June 13, 1990. He was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment for the homicide.
So, where is Mark Putnam now?
After serving 10 years from his 16-year sentence, Mark Putnam was released from prison in 2000 due to his good behavior.
According to the ‘Above Suspicion’ novel author Joe Sharkey, Putnam was referred to as a “model inmate” during his time in prison.
Mark Putnam is leading a retired life at his 60’s and got married again. His new wife and him lives in Georgia.
What happened to Mark Putnam wife and children?
Apart from the question – Is Mark Putnam still alive? You may be wondering what happened to Mark’s Wife and children and where they are now!
Mark Putnam was married to Kathleen “Kathy” Ponticelli, who was the daughter of a wealthy real-estate agent. Kathy was born on January 6, 1960.
She has a daughter named Danielle, who was the first child with Putnam before he was sent to Pikeville in Kentucky for fieldwork. For the most time, she was a stay-at-home mother.
After they moved to Pikeville, Kathy was pregnant again with Putnam’s second child, a son named Mark Jr.
Where are Mark Putnam children and wife now?
Mark Putnam’s affair with Susan Smith made his family life complicated and eventually tragic in the end.
Apparently, When Susan died, she was pregnant with Mark’s child. After that, Putnam went into 16 years of imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Mark’s wife, Kathy, and her children were left on their own after his imprisonment.
Around two years before Mark was released from prison on good behavior, his wife suddenly died.
The cause of her death was organ failure, which is more likely from her heavy drinking at the age of 38.
Since Kathy was raised in Manchester, Connecticut, she was buried in Saint James Cementary, in Manchester only.
Is Above Suspicion True Story?
‘Above Suspicion’ is a true crime book based on Mark Putnam’s crime of passion and its aftermath leading to his guilty confession.
Author Joe Sharkey wrote a detailed account of Mark Putnam from beginning to end.
This was eventually adapted as a film titled the same starring Game of Thrones famed actress Emilia Clarke, streaming on Netflix.
The film was directed by Phillip Noyce and focuses on an FBI field officer from a small town, Pikeville, getting help from this rookie agent.
‘Above Suspicion’ movie certainly takes some creative liberties to dramatize the narrative, but it still is very much aligned with Susan Smith’s murder case.
So, yes! ‘Above Suspicion’ is indeed a true story.
While Mark Putnam is still alive, he is still known as the murder of Susan Smith. It is a tag that will remain with him forever and has been further ingrained due to the movie.