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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, three-year-old Michael Daniel Smith and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith.[2]

Susan Smith
Susan Smith (SC convict).png
Susan Smith in 2012
Born Susan Leigh Vaughan
(1971-09-26) September 26, 1971 (age 46)
Union, South Carolina, U.S.
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment with a possibility of parole after 30 years
Criminal status Incarcerated at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood County, South Carolina
David Smith
(m. 1991; div. 1995)
Children Michael Daniel (1991–1994)
Alexander Tyler (1993–1994)
Parent(s) Linda Sue Harrison and Harry Ray Vaughan
Conviction(s) Two counts of murder

The case gained international attention shortly after it developed because of Smith's false claim that an African-American man had carjacked her maroon Mazda Protegé and kidnapped her sons. Her defense attorneys, David Bruck and Judy Clarke, called expert witnesses to testify that she suffered from mental health issues that impaired her judgment when she committed the crimes.[3]

According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Smith will be eligible for parole on November 4, 2024, after serving a minimum of 30 years. She is incarcerated at South Carolina's Leath Correctional Institution, near Greenwood.[4]


Family backgroundEdit

Smith's father committed suicide when she was six years old. She rarely had a stable home life. At 13, she attempted suicide. Her mother remarried, and it was disclosed during her trial that her stepfather had molested her when she was a teenager. One newspaper claimed that sexual relations between them had continued until six months before the murders.[5]

After graduating from high school in 1989, Smith made a second attempt to end her own life.[6] She married David Smith, and they had two sons. The relationship was rocky due to mutual allegations of infidelity, and they separated several times.[7]


On October 25, 1994, Smith reported to police that her vehicle had been carjacked by a black man who drove away with her sons still inside. For nine days, she made dramatic pleas on national television for their rescue and return. However, following an intensive investigation and a nationwide search, she confessed on November 3, 1994, to letting her car roll into nearby John D. Long Lake,[8] drowning them inside.[9] Her motivation was reportedly to be able to have a relationship with a local wealthy man, even though he had no intention of forming a family.[10] She said that there was no motive nor did she plan the murders, stating that she was not in a right state of mind.[7]

Later investigation revealed that detectives doubted Smith's story from the start and believed that she murdered her sons. On the second day of the investigation, the police suspected that she knew their location and hoped that they were still alive. Investigators started to search the nearby lakes and ponds, including John D. Long Lake, where their bodies eventually were found. Initial water searches did not locate the car because the police believed it would be within 30 feet of the shore, and did not search farther; it turned out to be 120 feet from the shore. After the boys were missing for two days, Smith and her estranged husband, David, were subjected to a polygraph test. The biggest breakthrough of the case was her description of the carjacking location. She had claimed that a traffic light had turned red causing her to stop at an otherwise empty intersection. However, it was determined that the light would not have turned red for her unless a vehicle was present on the intersecting road. This conflicted with her statement that she did not see any other cars there when the carjacking took place.[11]

Smith's defense psychiatrist diagnosed her with dependent personality disorder and major depression.[12]


Smith was incarcerated in the Administrative Segregation Unit in the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina.[13] While there, two correctional officers, Lt. Houston Cagle and Capt. Alfred R. Rowe Jr., were charged after having sex with her.[14] Consequently, she was moved to a prison in Greenwood. In 2003, she placed a personal ad on, which was later retracted.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rekers, George (1996). Susan Smith: Victim Or Murderer. Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. pp. 12, 16. ISBN 0-944435-38-6. 
  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. ^ "Susan Smith, Mother Who Killed Kids:". NBC News. Retrieved June 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Inmate Details Susan Smith." (Page Archive, Image Archive) South Carolina Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-22.
  5. ^ Gleick, Elizabeth (June 24, 2001). "Sex, betrayal and murder", Time.
  6. ^ Pergament, Rachel. "Susan Smith Child Murderer or Victim?". truTV Crime Library. Archived from the original on December 29, 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Chuck, Elizabeth (July 23, 2015). "Susan Smith, Mother Who Killed Kids: ‘Something Went Very Wrong That Night’", NBC News.
  8. ^ "John D. Long Lake". Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  9. ^ Charles Montaldo. "Susan Smith — Profile of a Child Killer". The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  10. ^ Kemp, Kathy (April 17, 2005). "In The Arms of Angels" (PDF). Birmingham News. Birmingham, Alabama. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 24, 2011. 
  11. ^ Cahill, Harrison (October 18, 2014). "Susan Smith: 20 years later, case still a shocker". The State. Retrieved June 9, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Child murderer or victim?". Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. 
  13. ^ Hewitt, Bill. "Tears of Hate & Pity." People. March 13, 1995. Volume 43, No. 10. Retrieved on October 28, 2010.
  14. ^ "Sex with Child Killer Charged Again". ABC News. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  15. ^ Susan Smith apology,, July 17, 2003.

Further readingEdit

  • Eady, Cornelius (2001). Brutal Imagination. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 978-0399147203. 
  • Eftimiades, Maria (February 1995). Sins of the Mother. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-95658-5. 
  • Rekers, George (September 1995). Susan Smith: Victim or Murderer. Glenbridge Publishing. ISBN 0-944435-38-6. 
  • Russell, Linda; Stephens, Shirley (April 2000). My Daughter Susan Smith. Authors Book Nook. ISBN 978-0-9701076-1-9. 
  • Smith, David (July 1995). Beyond All Reason: My Life With Susan Smith. Zebra. ISBN 978-0-8217-5220-3. 
  • South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED); SLED Latent Print and Crime Scene Worksheet: Flotation Characteristics of 1990 Mazda Protege; May 24, 1995

External linksEdit