COLUMBIA — Twenty years after she was sentenced to life in prison for murdering her two sons, Susan Smith defended herself in a letter written in response to a request from The State newspaper.
On Oct. 24, 1994, Smith told law enforcement authorities that she had been carjacked by an African-American man who had kidnapped her two sons, Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months. Smith’s story captured the attention of not only Union County, but the nation and the world.
Over the course of nine days as media attention grew and law enforcement searched for the two little boys and their kidnapper, Smith made repeated pleas for her children to be returned to her safely.
On Nov. 3, 1994, Smith went from being a frightened mother begging for the return of her children to being their murderer when she admitted that she had driven to John D. Long Lake and left the two little boys inside her car while she let it roll into the water.
Just as her original story captured the attention of the community, the nation and the world, Smith’s confessing to murdering her children also attracted worldwide attention as did her subsequent trial. Smith was convicted of murdering her sons and was sentenced to life in prison on July 22, 1995.
The State submitted its request to Smith in August 2014, asking her to share her experiences of her trial and investigation for a 20th-anniversary article regarding the untold stories of the Susan Smith case, which was published in the newspaper in October.
Smith did not immediately respond as the letter was sent to the S.C. Department of Corrections Correspondence Review Committee which did not approve it until Nov. 19, 2014.
In her letter, Smith’s states that she imagines this was deliberate, telling The State reporter Harrison Cahill that “I wanted to let you know that I would have most likely responded to your letter because I have (not) yet been able to speak on my behalf. It has been hard to listen to lie after lie and not be able to defend myself.”
In her letter, Smith told Cahill “I am not the monster society thinks I am. I am far from it.”
In her letter, which was published Tuesday in an article by Cahill, Smith states that she had no motive for killing Michael and Alex and had not planned to do so. Smith stated that she loved Michael and Alex and that their deaths were not planned and that she’d been distraught.
As for claiming Michael and Alex had been kidnapped by a carjacker, Smith stated she only said it because she didn’t know how to tell the people who loved Michael and Alex that they’d never see the children again.
Instead, Smith stated that she’d planned to kill herself and leave a note behind telling what had happened. She stated she didn’t believe she could face her family when the truth was revealed.
As for why she killed Michael and Alex, Smith stated that something had went wrong that night, that she was not herself, describing herself as being “a good mother” who “loved my boys.”
In the aftermath of her confession, some claimed that Smith had killed her children in response to the end of an affair she had been having. Smith told The State that this was “so far from the truth.” She stated that it hurt her the most that people would think that she hurt her children just to be with a man.
The State received Smith’s response in January. She signed the letter “Sincerely, Susan.” Since receiving her response in January, The State sent Smith a follow-up letter, but the newspaper reports she has not responded.
Some information for this article came from an article that appeared in The State.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.