Susan Smith

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Susan Smith
Born Susan Leigh Vaughan
(1971-09-26) September 26, 1971 (age 47)
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)[1]
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.[2]

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.[3]

The case

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,[4] drowning the children inside.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Consequently, she was moved to a prison in Greenwood where she is currently held. In 2003, she placed a personal ad at, which has since been retracted.[11]

See also


  • Eady, Cornelius (2001). Brutal Imagination. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 978-0399147203.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Eftimiades, Maria (February 1995). Sins of the Mother. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-95658-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Rekers, George (September 1995). Susan Smith: Victim or Murderer. Glenbridge Publishing. ISBN 0-944435-38-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Russell, Linda; Stephens, Shirley (April 2000). My Daughter Susan Smith. Authors Book Nook. ISBN 978-0-9701076-1-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Smith, David (July 1995). Beyond All Reason: My Life With Susan Smith. Zebra. ISBN 978-0-8217-5220-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED); SLED Latent Print and Crime Scene Worksheet: Floatation Characteristics of 1990 Mazda Protege; May 24, 1995


  1. Rekers, George (1996). Susan Smith: Victim Or Murderer. Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. pp. 12, 16. ISBN 0-944435-38-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Spitz, D.J. (2006): Investigation of Bodies in Water. In: Spitz, W.U. & Spitz, D.J. (eds): Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death. Guideline for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigations (Fourth edition), Charles C. Thomas, pp.: 846-881; Springfield, Illinois.
  3. "Inmate Details Susan Smith." (Page Archive, Image Archive) South Carolina Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-22.
  4. Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
  5. Charles Montaldo. "Susan Smith — Profile of a Child Killer". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 24 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kemp, Kathy (17 April 2005). "In The Arms of Angels" (PDF). Birmingham News. Birmingham, Alabama.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Child murderer or victim?
  8. Pergament, Rachel. "Susan Smith Child Murderer or Victim?". truTV Crime Library. Retrieved 24 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hewitt, Bill. "Tears of Hate & Pity." People. March 13, 1995. Volume 43, No. 10. Retrieved on October 28, 2010.
  10. "Sex With Child Killer Charged Again". ABC News. Retrieved 7 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Susan Smith apology,, July 17, 2003.

External links