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Sources Say FBI Agent to Plead Guilty in Slaying of Woman

June 7, 1990

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ An FBI agent has agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter in the death of a pregnant woman who disappeared a year ago after they quarreled about child support payments, law enforcement sources say.

The sources and the victim’s sister, Shelby Ward, said the agent would enter his plea next Tuesday in Pike Circuit court and be sentenced to 16 years in prison. They said no charges had been filed against him.

Kentucky State Police and the FBI have been investigating the disappearance of Mrs. Ward’s sister, Susan Daniels Smith, who was last seen on June 8, 1989.

Mrs. Ward said Commonwealth’s attorney John Paul Runyon, state police Capt. Gary Rose and an FBI agent told her Tuesday that the agent described in a statement how he strangled Ms. Smith and dumped her nude body at Harmond Branch, about five miles north of Pikeville.

Officials at all those agencies refused to comment publicly on reports of the plea agreement. But law enforcement sources, who asked not to be identified, confirmed details of Mrs. Ward’s story for The Associated Press.

On Tuesday, state police and FBI officials said they had found human skeletal remains at Harmond Branch. David Wolf, a forensic anthropologist with the state Medical Examiner’s office said Thursday the skeleton was that of ″an adult Caucasian female.″

State police said they would hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Pikeville to ″address the death investigation of Susan Daniels Smith.″

The Williamson, W.Va., Daily News in Thursday’s editions identified the agent as Mark Putnam, who was transferred from Pikeville to Miami last year.

Attempts to reach Putnam for comment were not immediately successful. Directory assistance in Miami had no telephone listing for Putnam. In Miami, an FBI spokesman referred a reporter to the agency’s Washington headquarters when asked if Putnam was based in Miami.

Greg Jones, an FBI spokesman in Washington, refused to comment on the case. When asked whether to his knowledge there had ever been a case of an FBI agent charged in a murder, he said: ″I don’t believe there ever has been.″

Mrs. Ward said in an interview at her home in Freeburn on Wednesday that she was told the agent ″confessed to killing my sister″ during an argument at a hotel in Pikeville over support of her expected child. Mrs. Ward said her sister had told her the agent was the father.

She said her sister, an eighth-grade dropout and divorced mother of two, had repeatedly requested several thousand dollars in support.

″She wanted him to leave his wife. She was threatening to tell his wife about the baby and (the agent) was scared to death,″ Mrs. Ward said.

Mrs. Ward said she was told by the officials that the agent placed her sister’s body in the trunk of his car and disposed of it a day later - after he made a business trip to Lexington.

″What was so bad is when he took the body and dumped it over the hill like it was nothing,″ she said.

Mrs. Ward said she was upset that her family had not been consulted about the reported plea agreement.

″I think he should have been tried for murder, because it’s cold-blooded murder to me,″ she said. ″I shook my head. I couldn’t believe it. ...My family’s all upset about this.″