On October 25, 1994, in Union
, South Carolina
, Susan Smith parked her Mazda Protégé
on an unpaved boat ramp, exited the car, released its emergency brake
, and let it roll into John D. Long Lake
, where it bobbed and then slowly sank. Strapped into car seat
s and sleeping were Smith's 3 year old son Michael, and her year old son Alex.
Susan's father Harry Ray Vaughan had been a depressed and violent alcoholic who had commited suicide after he had been divorced by Susan's mother Linda. As a teenager, Susan had been repeatedly sexually molested by her step-father Bev Russel. She later had gotten an abortion and twice attempted suicide via overdose of over the counter painkillers. In 1991, after becoming pregnant with his child, Susan had married ex-Jehovah's Witness David Smith in order to avoid another abortion. She and David had had two sons and then separated in 1993. Earlier on the day that she killed her sons, her boyfriend Tom Findlay had ended his relationship with her, accusing her of an affair with his father, J. Carey Findlay.
And after committing the unjustifiable but not unpredictable double murder
, Smith generated a hysterical explanation for Union County sheriff Howard Wells
: A man had jumped into her car at a red light, hijack
ed the car at gunpoint, forced Susan to leave the car, and drove away, children in tow. Her anonymous villian
was a black man, around forty years of age, wearing a dark knit cap, a dark shirt, jeans and a plaid jacket. The statement boiled down to "A black man has got my kids and my car,"
a scenario too believable to a knee-jerk reacting
In a brief-lived media frenzy
, Susan Smith and her credulous and entirely clueless
husband David Smith appeared on television
and in newspaper
s, pleading with their sons' kidnap
per to bring the boys home. But there were many holes in Susan's statement, the most glaring being that she claimed there were no other cars at the intersection where she was stopped, when in fact that traffic light
was permanently green unless triggered by the presence of other cars. In 1995 a trial
jury eventually found Smith guilty of two counts of murder, and sentenced her to life in prison
In 2001, the poet Cornelius Eady adopted the identity of the Smith's fictional, but nonetheless feared and demonized black suspect. In Eady's book Brutal Imagination, a two part collection of song cycles, he examined this intelligent,sociopathic bogeyman from interior and exterior points of view, including those of the villian and of Smith herself.