The Story Of Susan Smith: The Mother From South Carolina Who Drowned Her Children In A Lake

The horrifying story of Susan Leigh Smith, a mother from South Carolina who was convicted of driving her two sons, Michael and Alexander, into John D. Long Lake in 1994.

Susan Smith was convicted of killing her two sons by driving them into a lake
Susan Smith was convicted of killing her two sons by driving them into a lake

Susan Smith was the victim of a terrible tragedy during her childhood, at just 6-years-old her father killed himself, and she attempted to do the same at age 13. Her mother went on to remarry, only for her new stepfather to sexually molest her. At 19-years-old and plagued by a lifelong trauma she went on to marry a man by the name of David Smith, starting a family herself - only to go on and murder her own children.

Susan Smith and her husband David had a volatile relationship that was caused by mutual infidelity. Her husband was not aware of her troubles with depression or her dependent personality disorder, He was also unaware that his wife had been dumped by a wealthy South Carolina man who didn't want kids, which ended up leading to the frantic mother drowning her own children.

She buckled 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alexander into her 1990 Mazda Protege and left them to die when she rolled her car into John D. Long Lake in October 1994. Susan Smith even concocted a story that she was carjacked by a black man whilst the children were in the car in the hope of getting away with her horrendous crime.

Mr & Mr's Smith And The Childhood Trauma

Susan Leigh Vaughan was born on September 26, 1971, in Union, South Carolina, and was the youngest of three children and the only girl. In 1977 tragedy struck when her father, Harry Ray, killed himself. Susan dealt with the grief of the death of her father by keeping his coin collection and an audio recording of his voice, but she went on to try and kill herself at age 13.

When Susan's mother Linda married Beverly C. Russell Jr. It appeared that the family's future was looking positive. Russell was a divorced father of three and a thriving stockbroker, he was a member of the Christian Coalition and South Carolina's Republican community. However, behind closed doors, he groped his 15-year-old stepdaughter's breasts and genitals.

In 1987 Susan told her mother, as well as her school counselor about the abuse she had received at home. Linda confronted her husband about the allegations, he admitted what he had done and promised to never do it again, and agreed to family therapy, but his abuse towards Susan continued, she confirmed this to the same people in February 1988.

A powerful image showing David Smith Sr. mourning his grandsons at John D. Long Lake.
A powerful image showing David Smith Sr. mourning his grandsons at John D. Long Lake.

Later that same year, Susan once again attempted suicide. At the time Susan was working part-time at Winn-Dixie, she became depressed after an older, married work colleague broke off an affair with her, leading her to try an overdose on aspirin. Doctors diagnosed her with an "adjustment disorder" and put her behaviour down to stress.

Speaking to her psychiatrist in 1989, Susan Vaughan said that her "affair" with her stepfather was consensual, she explained that she was jealous that her mother was receiving all the male attention. She ended up meeting David Smith, a colleague at Winn-Dixie, he was a supermarket worker who was raised a Jehovah's Witness and brought up by extremely strict parents.

Following a short relationship of approximately a year, they got married. Susan was already two months pregnant with her first son, Michael, whilst her 20-year-old groom lost his brother to Crohn's disease and had his own father attempt suicide, all within a year. The Smiths went on to constantly cheat on each other and fight.

The Crimes Of Susan Smith

Susan Smith came across her biggest extramarital prospect as a newfound employee at Conso Products in 1993. She started having a sexual relationship with the son of her boss, Tom Findlay, in January 1994. A wealthy, good-looking, 27-year-old. But he ended their relationship in October, he wrote Susan Smith a letter explaining that he wasn't ready for a relationship that involved children.

On October 25, they had a conversation. Findlay recalled Smith being "upset because David knew, or so she thought, some information that he was going to make public that upset her." It is not clear exactly what this information was, while it was later revealed that Smith had continued to have sexual relations with her former stepfather.

Susan went on to insult Findlay, claiming that she had slept with his father, he told her to leave. The 23-year-old drowned her own children just three hours later. She reported her car stolen, and claimed for the next nine days that a black man had abducted her sons during a carjacking. Susan Smith finally gave it up and confessed on November 3, her trial began in 1995.

This photo was taken at the funeral of Michael and Alexander Smith
This photo was taken at the funeral of Michael and Alexander Smith

David Bruck, who was the defense attorney of Susan Smith argued her actions were due to a mental illness that was caused by the suicide of her father, sexual abuse, and emotional rejections. Thomas Pope, the lead prosecutor painted a very different picture.

He described Smith as a murderous manipulator who killed her children to regain Findlay's affections. The jury deliberated for two and a half hours on July 22, 1995, to find her guilty. Susan Smith was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Smith has been serving her sentence at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, South Carolina since her sentence was passed. Since her incarceration, she has been caught smoking cannabis and sleeping with a corrections officer. In 2015 she broke her decades-long silence with a letter to South Caroline's The State.

"It has been hard to listen to lie after lie and not be able to defend myself," she said. "It's frustrating, to say the least. The thing that hurts me the most is that people think that I hurt my children in order to be with a man. That is so far from the truth. There was no motive as it was not even a planned event. I was not in my right mind."

Now you have read the story of Susan Smith, make sure you check out the story of a man arrested after finding a human torso inside a fridge on his bus.


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