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Famous Like Me > Actress > S > Susan Smith

Profile of Susan Smith on Famous Like Me

Name: Susan Smith  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 14th January 1959
Place of Birth: Beloit, Wisconsin, USA
Profession: Actress
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
For the September 1981 Playboy Playmate of the Month, see Susan Smith (Playmate).

Susan Smith (born Susan Leigh Vaughan, September 26, 1971), of Union, South Carolina, was convicted in 1995 of murdering her two sons (3-year-old Michael Daniel Smith, born October 10, 1991, and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith, born August 5, 1993), and is now serving a life sentence. She will not be eligible for parole until at least 2025, after she has served a minimum of thirty years.

The case gained worldwide attention nearly as soon as it developed because Smith initially told police on October 25, 1994, that she had been carjacked by an African-American man and that her sons were still in the car when the man drove away. Smith made tearful pleas on television for the return of her children. However, nine days later following an intensive, heavily publicized investigation and nationwide search, she eventually confessed to letting her 1990 Mazda Protegé roll into nearby John D. Long Lake, drowning her children inside.

Susan Smith being escorted from Union County Courthouse during her trial

The resulting backlash arising from the betrayal felt by many across the United States and around the world to whom she and her two "missing" sons had been the subject of an outpouring of sympathy was further aggravated by the fact that 1) she had attempted to cast blame, falsely, upon an African-American man, making the case a racially sensitive one that brought back bad memories of a recent Roxbury, Massachusetts, case involving one Charles Stuart, who had shot his wife to death in their vehicle and covered it up by making a false police report that a black man had done it, causing racial tensions in the metropolitan Boston area for sometime afterward; and 2) her alleged motive for the deaths -- to dispose of her children so that she might have a relationship with a wealthy local man who did not want a ready-made family -- met with widely held contempt and revulsion.

She was spared the death penalty in a decision by the South Carolina jury, after her step-father, prominent Union County Republican Party and Christian Coalition leader Beverly Russell, testifiee that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with her, as a teenager (until the intervention of the local Department of Social Services), and again in the months before the drowning of the two boys. Some courtroom observers indicate that it was his testimony which seemed to sway the jury in favor of sparing her life. Russell, apparently shielded by power and privilege, was never charged with a crime, despite the fact that he was accused -- and did not deny -- in open court of the molestation and incestous sexual abuse of his teen-aged step-daughter.

In 2003, a journalist from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, gathering background information on Smith while working on a story that she was being held in general population at a South Carolina women's prison (a setting likely to endanger her because of her notoriety), began a reinvestigation of the case; and concluded that the deaths of Michael and Alex Smith were the result of an accident, not murder - an irresponsible accident for which Smith might indeed be subject to some blame, but still not intentionally caused deaths. The conclusion was based upon the ambiguity in general of Smith's confessions and statements to investigators; the complete failure of the state to develop any sound evidence to support the widely held theory that Smith murdered the children to clear the way for a wealthy man in whom she had a love interest but who was not willing to accept her children from her previous marriage (a motive to which Smith never admitted); psychiatric evidence indicating that Smith, while not insane, suffered from a disorder that rendered her incapable of planning and executing a complex murder plot; post-offense behavior more consistent with an effort to cover up culpability in a fatal accident than post-offense staging following a premeditated murder (e.g., rather than seek the media out to plead for the return of her two children, she avoided the media as much as she could; and rather than try and inject herself into and manipulate the investigation, she seemed to be cooperating only reluctantly throughout the investigation); and a laboratory report obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request from South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) indicating that Smith could not have put the car into the lake from the top of the boat ramp by releasing the Mazda's hand brake as alleged by the state because of a pre-existing mechanical flaw in the car's braking system. She then fabricated her story about the "black carjacker" to cover up her role in the deaths: transcripts of the 911 call and initial statements to investigators indicate that it was not thought out in advance. The conclusions that the physical evidence better supports an accident scenario than any sort of homicide conviction have resulted in controversy in localities where they've been published and in internet forums, as they began to appear in late 2004 and early 2005. No legal proceedings based upon the findings are known to have been commenced on Smith's behalf at this time.

Cultural References

Indie musician Hayden's song "When This Is Over" (from the 1995 album "Everything I Long For") recalls the murders from the point of view of Michael Smith.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Susan Smith