Susan Vaughan Smith of Union, S.C. was convicted on July 22, 1995, and sentenced to life in prison for murdering her two sons, Michael Daniel Smith, 3, and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith.
Susan Smith - Her Childhood YearsSusan Smith was born on September 26, 1971, in Union, S.C., to parents Linda and Harry Vaughan. She was the youngest of three children and the couple's only daughter. Her parents divorced when Susan was seven and five weeks later Harry, age 37, committed suicide. Her parent's tumultuous marriage and the death of her father left Susan a sad, empty and oddly distant child.
Within weeks of the Vaughan's divorce Linda married Beverly (Bev) Russell, a successful local businessman. Linda and the children moved from their small modest home into Bev's house located in an exclusive subdivision of Union.
Friendliest FemaleAs a teen Susan was a good student, well liked and outgoing. In her junior year she was voted president of the Junior Civitan Club, a club which focused on volunteering in the community. In her final year of high school she received the "Friendliest Female" award and was known for her cheerful and fun disposition.
Family Secrets ExposedBut during those years of enjoying her popularity and positions of leadership, Susan was harboring a family secret. At the age of sixteen her step-father had turned from caretaker to molester. Susan reported the inappropriate behavior to her mother and to the Department of Social Services and Bev moved out from the home temporarily. Nothing of any consequence resulted from Susan's report and after a few family counseling sessions Bev returned home.
Susan was chastised by her family for making the sexual abuse a public affair and Linda appeared more concerned that the family would be subjected to public embarrassment than protecting her daughter. Unfortunately for Susan, with Bev back in the house the sexual molestation continued.
In her senior year of high school Susan turned to a school counselor for help. The Department of Social Service was contacted again, but Susan refused to press charges and the matter was swiftly swept under the proverbial carpet of lawyers' agreements and sealed records which protected Bev and the family from the feared public humiliation.
Rejection and an Attempted SuicideDuring the summer of 1988, Susan got a job at the local Winn-Dixie grocery store and moved quickly up the ranks from cashier to bookkeeper. In her senior year at high school she was sexually active with three men - a married older man who worked at the store, a younger co-worker and with Bev.
Susan became pregnant and had an abortion. The married man ended their relationship and her reaction to the breakup was to attempt suicide by taking aspirin and Tylenol. While being treated in the hospital she admitted to having tried a similar suicide attempt when she was 13-years-old.
David SmithAt work, another relationship was beginning to form with co-worker and high school friend David Smith. David ended his engagement with another woman and started dating Susan. The two decided to marry when Susan discovered she was pregnant.
Susan and David Smith married on March 15, 1991, and moved into David's great-grand-mother's house. David's parents were suffering the recent loss of another son who died from Crohn's disease just eleven days before Susan and David married. By May 1991, the strain of the loss of a son proved to be too much on David's parents. His father attempted suicide and his mother left and moved to another city.
This kind of family drama fit right into what Susan was used to and the young couple, both very needy, spent the early months of their marriage comforting one another.
Michael Daniel SmithOn October 10, 1991, the Smith's first son, Michael, was born. David and Susan showered the child with love and attention. But having a child could not help the differences in the newlywed's backgrounds which began to put a strain on their relationship. Susan was more materialistic than David and often turned to her mother for financial help. David found Linda to be intrusive and controlling and resented Susan always doing what Linda wanted her to do, especially when it came to raising Michael.
First SeparationBy March 1992, the Smiths were separated and over the next seven months they tried on and off to mend the marriage. During the breakups Susan dated a former boyfriend from work which didn't help matters.
In November 1992, Susan announced she was pregnant again which seemed to bring David and her into clearer focus and the two reunited. The couple borrowed money from Susan's mother for a down payment on a house, believing having their own home would fix their troubles. But over the next nine months Susan became more distant and complained continuously about being pregnant.
In June 1993, David felt lonely and isolated in his marriage and began a relationship with a co-worker. After the birth of their second child, Alexander Tyler, on August 5, 1993, David and Susan reunited, but within three weeks David had once again moved out and the two decided the relationship was over.
Regardless of their broken marriage, both David and Susan were good, attentive and caring parents who seemed to enjoy the children.
Tom FindlaySusan, not wanting to work in the same place as David, took a job as a bookkeeper at the largest employer in the area, Conso Products. She was eventually promoted to the executive secretary position for the president and CEO of Conso, J. Carey Findlay.
For Union, S.C. this was a prestigious position which exposed Susan to wealthy people with extravagant lifestyles. It also gave her the opportunity to get closer to one of Union's most eligible bachelors, the son of her boss, Tom Findlay.
In January 1994 Susan and Tom Findlay began casually dating, but by spring she and David were back together. The reconciliation only lasted a few months and Susan told David she wanted a divorce. In September she was dating Tom Findlay again and planning their future together in her mind. Tom, in the meantime, was trying to figure out how to end it with Susan.
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