Susan Leigh Vaughan Smith, better known as Susan Smith, was born on September 26, 1971, in Union, South Carolina.
She gained notoriety after being convicted of murdering her two young sons, 3-year-old Michael Daniel Smith and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith, in 1994.
Smith initially claimed that a black man had carjacked her vehicle with the children inside, sparking a nationwide search. She later confessed to letting her car roll into a lake, drowning the boys inside.
Smith’s case horrified the nation and sparked debates about motive, postpartum depression, and racial profiling in law enforcement. She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Smith is currently incarcerated at Leath Correctional Institution in South Carolina.
Susan Smith’s Bio and Background
|Full Name||Susan Leigh Vaughan Smith|
|Date of Birth||September 26, 1971|
|Age||52 years old|
|Birthplace||Union, South Carolina, United States|
|Parents||Linda Sue Harrison and Harry Ray Vaughan|
|Spouse||David Smith (m. 1991; div. 1995)|
|Children||Michael Daniel Smith (1991-1994), Alexander Tyler Smith (1993-1994)|
|Occupation||Former assistant manager at Conso Products|
|Criminal Conviction||Two counts of murder|
|Criminal Sentence||Life imprisonment with possibility of parole after 30 years|
|Net Worth||$1 million|
Susan Smith had a troubled childhood and family life. Her father committed suicide when she was just 6 years old, leaving her mother to raise Susan and her older brother alone.
Smith attempted suicide herself as a teenager. She also accused her stepfather of sexual abuse, although he was never charged.
Smith married her high school boyfriend David Smith in 1991. Their marriage was rocky due to mutual accusations of infidelity.
They had two sons together, Michael and Alexander. The couple separated in 1994, although their divorce was not finalized before the children’s deaths.
The Murders and Trial
On October 25, 1994, Susan Smith reported to police that she had been carjacked by an African-American man who drove off with her two sons still in the vehicle. This led to a nationwide search and media frenzy over the missing children.
Nine days later, Smith confessed to making up the story. She admitted to strapping the boys into their car seats and letting the car roll into a lake, drowning them inside.
Smith claimed she was suicidal over her crumbling marriage and wanted to eliminate her children so she could have a relationship with a wealthy local man, Tom Findlay.
Findlay had recently broken up with Smith, telling her he did not want to be involved with a woman with young children.
During her trial, Smith’s defense tried to argue that she had a mental breakdown and was not in her right mind when she committed the murders.
However, the prosecution claimed Smith’s actions were premeditated so she could start a new life with Findlay, free from her young children.
The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Susan Smith guilty of two counts of murder in July 1995. She was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
Life in Prison and Parole Possibility
Susan Smith is currently serving her life sentence at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, South Carolina. She will be eligible for parole in November 2024, after serving 30 years.
Smith has generally avoided publicity and controversy during her time in prison. However, in 2015 she was caught up in a scandal involving illicit relations with multiple prison guards. This led to her transfer to Leath Correctional.
If granted parole in 2024, Smith will be 53 years old. The parole board will likely assess whether she poses any danger to society after being incarcerated for decades. They will also evaluate her behavior and rehabilitation efforts in prison before making a decision on releasing her.
Given the notoriety and horrific nature of her crimes, many legal experts think it is unlikely Susan Smith will be granted parole on her first hearing.
The board may deny her request and tell her to wait several more years before attempting again.
Susan Smith’s Net Worth
It is estimated that Susan Smith has a net worth of around $1 million as of 2023. Most of this derives from donations made by supporters to help fund her legal defense in the 1990s.
A “Susan Smith Defense Fund” was set up after her arrest and raised approximately $70,000 from supporters who believed she was mentally unstable. This money went towards her legal team and related expenses.
In addition, it is believed that Smith’s family may have contributed to her defense and put some money in her prison commissary account over the years. She has also earned money working various jobs while incarcerated.
Of course, Smith has no access to spend this money while in prison. If she is ever released on parole, she will then have a small nest egg to begin a new life outside of prison.
Given her severe mental health issues and horrendous crime, it is unlikely Smith would ever be able to profit from her story. Any attempt to sell book or media deals would likely be met with public outrage and boycotts.
Susan Smith’s Case in Pop Culture
Due to the shocking nature of her crimes, Susan Smith’s case has been referenced many times in popular culture:
- In TV shows like Law and Order, Arrested Development, and CSI, episodes featured storylines or characters inspired by Smith.
- Several books have been written exploring the case, including The Susan Smith: The Illusion of a Mother, and Mothers Who Kill Their Children.
- Indie rock band Rilo Kiley has a 2001 song called “Susan” with lyrics directly referring to Smith’s murders.
- Other musical artists like Eminem and Cam’ron have mentioned Susan Smith in lyrics.
- Comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle incorporated the case into their standup routines.
- Her case has been compared to Scott Peterson and Casey Anthony as mothers who killed their young children in horrific ways.
While she has been imprisoned for decades now, Susan Smith’s tragic and horrifying crime continues to resonate in the public consciousness as one of the most shocking crimes committed by a mother against her own children.