EXCLUSIVE: Jailed 30 Years for Drowning Her Kids, Susan Smith Is Making a Pitch for Freedom

Convicted of driving little Michael, 3, and Alex, 1, into a lake in 1994, Smith will get her first chance at parole; a family member says she 'doesn't deserve to get her life back.'


Mention of Susan Smith conjures memories one of the most notorious crimes in a generation: That of a 22-year-old mom who let her car roll into a South Carolina lake with her toddler and infant sons strapped into their car seats.

The 1994 case gained even more notoriety when Smith falsely told police that a black man had kidnapped her sons during a carjacking, pleading on national TV for their safe return.

Photos of Michael and Alex Smith at John D. Long Lake shore shrine, site of drowning murder of two boys by their mom Susan Smith. (Photo by William F. Campbell/Getty Images)

Now, nearly 30 years after the shocking double filicide and racially charged attempted coverup, Smith, 51, is coming eligible for parole and feels she is ready to be released back into society, a family member tells The Messenger.

Not everyone agrees she deserves that chance.

Smith, the relative says, has been telling people still in her life that she's a changed woman.

"She's working very hard to change the perception of her, especially when it comes to a parole board," says the family member, who keeps in regular contact.

"She says she is a different person than she used to be," said the kin.

But while Smith may be telling friends and family that she's a different person, the relative cautioned: "She doesn't deserve to get her life back."

In July 1995, a South Carolina jury convicted Smith of two counts of first degree murder in the drowning deaths of Michael 3, and Alex, 14 months. However, jurors rejected the state's request to impose the death penalty. Judge William Howard sentenced Smith to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.

Susan Smith was convicted on July 22, 1995 of murdering her two sons. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images)
Susan Smith was convicted on July 22, 1995 of murdering her two sons. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images)

She remains incarcerated at the Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, S.C. Her first parole eligibility will be on Nov. 4, 2024.

"I love Susan and I always will," says the family member. "But I loved Michael and Alex, too. Now they'd be married with kids of their own, with jobs and lives.

"Susan took their lives away, and she doesn't deserve to get her life back."

Earlier this year, Smith worked as a senior teaching assistant, tutoring other inmates seeking their GED.

In March, she took on a new role as a wardkeeper assistant, helping manage the daily operations of her housing unit.

"When we were [in jail] together, she was a real mess," Mel Parker, a former inmate who once served time with Smith, told The Messenger.

"She was always getting into trouble."

According to prison records, Smith faced disciplinary action at least five times between 2010 and 2015 for various infractions, including self-mutilation and the use and possession of narcotics or marijuana. 

Susan Smith
Susan Smith pictured in May 2021.

In 2000, Smith, then 28, was disciplined for having sex with a 50-year-old prison guard.

"She was really on the wrong track," says Parker. "I'm glad that she's figuring herself out."

On Oct. 25, 1994, a frantic Smith told police that a black man had carjacked her with her sons still inside the vehicle. For nine days, she pleaded on national television for the safe return of her young sons.

But police didn't believe her story. On Nov. 3, she confessed that she let her car roll into a lake with the boys inside.

When the vehicle was recovered, Michael and Alex were still strapped in their carseats.

Smith came up with the evil plan after the man she was dating told her that he didn't want children, it was revealed during testimony at her murder trial.

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