|Born||Susan Leigh Vaughan
September 26, 1971
Union, South Carolina
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment with a possibility of parole after 30 years|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood County, South Carolina|
|Spouse(s)||David Smith (1991 - 1995) (divorced)|
|Children||Michael Daniel, b. October 10, 1991 (aged 3 at death)
Alexander Tyler, b. August 5, 1993 (aged 14 months at death)
Both children died October 25, 1994.
|Parent(s)||Linda Sue Harrison and Harry Ray Vaughan|
|Conviction(s)||Two counts of murder|
Susan Leigh Vaughan Smith (born September 26, 1971) is an American convict who was sentenced to life in prison for filicide. Born in Union, South Carolina, she is a former student of the University of South Carolina. On July 22, 1995, she was convicted of the drowning deaths of her two sons, 3-year-old Michael Daniel Smith and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith.
The case gained worldwide attention shortly after it developed, due to her false claim that a black man carjacked her and kidnapped her two boys. Her defense attorneys, David Bruck and Judy Clarke, presented expert testimony that she suffered from mental health issues that impaired her judgment when she committed the crimes.
According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Smith will be eligible for parole on November 4, 2024, after serving a minimum of thirty years. She is incarcerated at South Carolina's Leath Correctional Institution, near Greenwood.
On October 25, 1994, Smith reported to police that she had been carjacked by a black man who drove away with her sons still in the car. For nine days, she made dramatic pleas on national television for the rescue and return of them. However, following an intensive investigation and a nationwide search, on November 3, 1994, she confessed to letting her 1990 Mazda Protegé roll into nearby John D. Long Lake, drowning the children inside. Her motivation was reportedly to be able to have a relationship with a local wealthy man, even though the latter had no intention of forming a family.
Later investigation revealed that detectives doubted Smith's testimony from the very beginning, and believed that she killed her own sons. On the second day of the investigation, the police, suspecting that she knew their location, hoped that they were still alive. Investigators started to search the nearby lakes and ponds, including John D. Long Lake, where the boys' bodies were eventually found. Initial searches did not uncover the car because the police believed it would be within 30 feet off the shore, and did not search farther; it turned out to be 60 feet off-shore. After the boys were missing for two days, Smith and her estranged husband, David, were subjected to a polygraph test. It was inconclusive, but showed that her claim to not know the location of her sons was a lie. Afterwards, during the interrogation, she accepted the results of the test, and failed the same question on every polygraph test thereafter. The biggest breakthrough of the case was her description of the carjacking location. She claimed that lights at the intersection where she stopped only turn red when a car approaches on the intersecting road. However, since she also claimed that no other cars were on the road at the time, she would have had no reason to stop at the intersection.
Smith's defense psychiatrist diagnosed her with dependent personality disorder and major depression. Her father committed suicide when she was 6 years old, and she rarely had a stable home life. It was disclosed in her trial that she was molested in her teens by her stepfather, who not only admitted to it, but also revealed that he had consensual sex with her when she was an adult. At 13, she attempted suicide. After graduating from high school in 1989, she made a second attempt to end her own life. She married David and had the two sons, but the relationship was rocky due to mutual allegations of infidelity, and they separated several times.
At one time, Smith was incarcerated in the Administrative Segregation Unit in the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina. While she has been in prison, two correctional officers have been punished for having sex with Smith: Lt. Houston Cagle and Capt. Alfred R. Rowe, Jr. Consequently, she was moved to a prison in Greenwood where she is currently held. In 2003, she placed a personal ad at WriteAPrisoner.com, which has since been retracted.
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