“I have prayed to God that he give me the strength to survive each day and to face those times and situations in my life that will be extremely painful. I have put my total faith in God, and he will take care of me.” – Susan Leigh Vaughn Smith
Tonight we bring you the first female addition to our growing list of offenders. Though she has not ruined as many lives as most of those on our list, she did take the lives of the two people she had the utmost duty to protect, and brought the international community along for the ride.
When Susan Smith first entered the public eye on October 25th, 1994, she issued a desperate plea for the safe return of her sons Michael and Alex. In front of a media circus never before seen in a town like Union, South Carolina, Smith tearfully described how a young African-American male in a plaid shirt had stolen her car at gunpoint and driven off with her two children inside. The citizens of Union rallied around her for support, and parents of other kidnapping victims flew in to assist in the search for her missing children.
After nine days of garnering the sympathy of the public and providing vague tips to keep authorities busy, the police received a letter which would completely destroy Smith’s veneer of grief and innocence. Tom Findlay, who had been having an extramarital affair with Smith until shortly before the disappearance, gave the police a copy of the note he had used to end his relationship with Smith. The letter explained, among other things, that Findlay was not ready to act as parent to two children. This gave Susan motive in the eyes of police, which moved the focus of the investigation to Smith herself.
As the investigation progressed, Susan’s stories fell apart. Her house was searched, and she was subjected to several polygraph tests, which she failed. Finally, on November 3, 1995, she broke down. Smith revealed that she had driven her car into John D. Long Lake, with Michael and Alex still buckled inside. A search of the lake confirmed her story. It is widely believed that she killed her sons in order to free herself for a permanent relationship with Findlay, though this could not be definitively proven. The public backlash to her confession was immediate, and even sparked hatred from the NAACP due to her attempts to incriminate a nonexistent African-American for the crime that she committed.
Susan is serving out a life sentence at the Columbia Women’s Correctional Center.
Quote Source: Confession of Susan Smith: Interviews & Interrogations Institute
Factual Sources: New York Times: Life of a Mother Accused of Killing Offers No Clues
Time Magazine: Sex, Betrayal and Murder
Death and Deceit