A Wall Street analyst who spoke to Peter Smith the day before he reportedly committed suicide told the Daily Caller News Foundation there were no indications the Chicago businessman and anti-Clinton political investigator was about to take his life.
“He may have been a fantastic actor but I certainly didn’t leave that phone call saying, ‘oh shit, the guy’s at the end of his rope,’” Charles Ortel, a Wall Street investment banker and market analyst, told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s (TheDCNF) Investigative Group.
“This does not seem like a settled story. It made perfect sense to me he might have died of natural causes, but little chance he would have killed himself,” Smith said.
Ortel and Smith shared a common interest in the Clintons. Ortel has has dug deeply into the financial operations of the Clinton Foundation. He first came to public attention in 2007 by exposing questionable accounting practices at General Electric.
“We had countless discussions,” Ortel recalled of his relationship with Smith. “He was using his unique decades of experience in politics to offer me advice how to expose the Clinton Foundation.”
The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that the Minnesota death record states Smith committed suicide in a hotel room May 14.
The investigator’s death came only 10 days after a Wall Street Journal interview by investigative reporter Shane Harris, who focused on Smith’s attempts to locate 33,000 emails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed she deleted before feds took her server.
The Tribune reported that Smith was asphyxiated. “He was found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached.”
Prior to Thursday’s revelation, it was assumed the 81-year old political investigator had died of natural causes while at the Mayo Clinic.
Ortel vigorously dismissed the allegation that Smith took his own life. Ortel, who may have been the last person to speak with Smith prior to his death, told TheDCNF there were no indications the wealthy Chicago businessman was about to commit suicide the next day.
“It was a friendly chat,” Ortel recalled of the phone conversation that occurred May 13. “But it certainly wasn’t the kind of chat where a person might go out and purchase two helium canisters and put a bag over your head. That made no sense,” Ortel said.
According to the death certificate, Smith died at 1:17 pm Central Time on Sunday, May 14.
Ortel said Smith did not appear depressed or give any hints he might be on the verge of taking his life.
“Absolutely not,” Ortel said. “He was excited to learn the particulars of a project we had been discussing.”
Ortel said he was concerned about Smith’s overall health and asked him about it.
“On this final call, I had to ask him, saying ‘Look, I want a straight answer, Are you OK heath-wise?’ And he said, ‘well I’ve been dealing with some problems. I’m up at the Mayo Clinic.’ So that’s what he told me.’”
Ortel said Harris asked him during the June 30 interview if he believed Smith had died of natural causes.
After sharing information of Smith’s health, “Shane and I both concluded that Peter had died of natural causes.”
Smith, 81, had a long history of investigating the Clintons. He reportedly had a hand in exposing then Gov. Bill Clinton’s “Troopergate” scandal in which the future president used state troopers to guard him while he was having sex with various women.
Smith was behind an unsuccessful 2016 effort to enter the “dark Internet” to uncover Clinton’s deleted emails.
He also faced criticism by some as a name dropper who claimed to have ties to powerful or famous people.
“He got his jollies hanging around and saying he was close to all these famous political figures,” Ortel admitted.
Ortel said in his last phone call to him, Smith seemed to be upbeat and very interested in future projects.
“There are lots of older guys like him who still ‘have it ‘and they’re still smart. They like projects. They like the intellectual stimulation. He was very interested and pleased with his work,” Ortel said.
Ortel also was suspicious about the note Smith allegedly left behind, written in all caps, stating “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER.”
He wrote that he was taking his own life because of a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” and that his timing was related “TO LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”
Ortel said that none of the hundreds of emails he received from Smith were written in all-caps.
“I don’t remember a single one in all cap letters,” he said. “To put that in a suicide note as many times as he did and in language that’s not really professional doesn’t sound like him”
He also noted that many life insurance policies usually exclude payment to beneficiaries in the case of suicide.
“He struck me as one of those deeply patriotic, motherhood and apple pie types who cared deeply about this country,” Ortel said of Smith.