The actual events that the 2019 film Above Suspicion depicts occurred more than twenty years ago, thus it’s possible that viewers of the movie today are unaware of the real history behind it. Few people today are aware of the 1989 murder of Susan Smith, which FBI agent Mark Putnam carried out. In 1992, Joe Sharkey wrote a book titled Above Suspicion that detailed the circumstances and served as the inspiration for the movie. Let’s learn more about this gritty tale, which deserves to be told.
You can watch the official trailer for Above Suspicion here on Youtube.
Above Suspicion: the true story of Mark Putnam & Susan Smith
Susan Smith was a Kentucky resident in her mid-20s during the 1980s. She had two children, was divorced, and shared a house with her ex-husband, so her life wasn’t simple. Susan had a drug issue because her ex-husband was a local dealer and their use on drugs had a bad impact on their marriage.
FBI agent Mark Putnam launched a probe in Susan Smith’s neighborhood in 1987. Carl Edward Lockhart, a well-known bank robber, was his intended victim. A local deputy, who thought he could serve as an informant for Putnam, brought Susan Smith to Mark Putnam to aid in the inquiry. Susan was an old friend of the deputy.
Mark Putnam and Susan Smith worked well together; Susan often provided Mark with intelligence on Lockhart’s illegal scheme, and her assistance was essential to the mission’s success. Lockhart was detained by Putnam in December 1987, and a year later he was given a 57-year prison term. Susan Smith earned $5,000 in pay for her assistance.
Putnam claims that after the arrest, he had less interactions with Susan Smith, but she persisted on seeing him frequently. They started dating in 1988 even though Mark was already wed. Mark Putnam asked to be transferred to Florida in 1989 out of concern about how this connection was developing. However, he had to go back to Kentucky a few weeks later to finish one of his investigations.
After his return, things immediately got worse. In the early half of 1989, Susan Smith called Mark Putnam to let him know she was expecting his child. The impending baby would be incompatible with Mark’s marriage, making his connection with Susan a serious threat. Susan was even offered the chance to adopt the child, but she declined.
Mark Putnam and Susan Smith got into a physical altercation in his automobile on June 8, 1989. When they began to argue, Mark choked Susan. Her body was kept in the trunk by him till the next day. He later abandoned the body in a remote spot close by before heading back to Florida to be with his family. Three days later, Susan’s sister reported her missing, but authorities were unable to locate Susan’s body.
Putnam was implicated in her disappearance a year later. Finally, he admitted to killing her and gave directions on where to find her corpse. He received a 16-year prison term in 1990 after becoming the first FBI agent to face homicide charges.
With a six-year sentence reduction for good behavior, Mark Putnam was granted freedom in 2000. Two years prior, his wife had passed away. He was 63 and residing in Georgia in 2023, the year Above Suspicion was made available on Netflix.