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Susan Smith: 25 years since the South Carolina mom murdered her sons

On October 25, 1994, Smith strapped her sons into her car and rolled them into John D. Long Lake in Union County.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It's now been 25 years since Susan Smith murdered her two young children, one of the most infamous crimes in recent South Carolina history that also made national headlines.

On October 25, 1994, Smith strapped her sons into her Mazda sedan and rolled them into John D. Long Lake in Union County. The children ---3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex--died moments later. 

But in the hours after the killing, Smith began a nefarious lie: she told police, the media, and anyone else who would listen that her vehicle had been carjacked by a black man, and it was that person who had kidnapped her children. 

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In tearful TV interviews, sitting behind her husband at the time, she begged for the "kidnapper" to bring her babies back. But all the while, she knew the truth: it was her who'd killed her own children. 

"She was very conniving," former South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart recalled in a 2014 interview with News19. "We felt very strongly her interviews on TV were not sincere. She was faking some of her reactions on TV."

Stewart said that from the beginning, law enforcement was skeptical of her account. 

"We got our first break when she said the abduction happened at a traffic light in Union and that she stopped for a red light, and just out of nowhere, this black guy just came up and just opened the door and jumped in the car and he had a gun,"Stewart said. "We learned from the Department of Transportation that's not possible because the route she was taking was always green unless cross traffic came across."

The ramp where Alex and Michael Smith were drowned in a car in 1994 in Union, S.C., on Sunday, July 9, 1995. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky)

Nine days later, after repeated questioning from law enforcement, she finally finally confessed. The sheriff of Union County at the time, Howard Wells, announced the news in a news conference that night. As he did, gasps could be heard from the audience of townspeople and media learned the horror of what happened. 

During her trial, her defense tried to present her as a woman with a troubled past. They told jurors she'd been sexually molested for years as a child, dealt with the suicide of her father at age six, and tried to kill herself twice as a teenager. 

Prosecutors said the motive of the killings was that she wanted to have a relationship with a wealthy Union County man who didn't want a family, and that's why she took her boys' lives. 

A jury convicted her in July of 1995. Prosecutors wanted the death penalty for her, but ultimately, she received a punishment of life in prison. 

Since then, we've gotten fragments of her life behind bars. We know that in 2000 and 2001, she slept with two corrections officers. The officers both were convicted, and Smith was moved from a Columbia prison to one in Greenwood. 

She hasn't been a model prisoner having been disciplined five times for offenses, including for drug use.

Credit: SC Department of Corrections
Susan Smith, in a photo taken by the South Carolina Department of Corrections in 2016.

In 2015, she broke years of public silence with a letter written to The State newspaper. In it, she claimed she intended to kill herself and the children, but changed plans in the final moments. 

"I am not the monster society thinks I am, I am far from it,” she wrote.

Smith was 23 when she committed the crime. Now 48 years old, she'll have a chance of parole in November of 2024, when at that point, she'll have been behind bars for 30 years.