Susan Smith reports that she was carjacked in South Carolina by a man who took her two small children in the backseat of her car. Although authorities immediately began searching for three-year-old Michael and one-year-old Alex, they could find no trace of them or of Smith's car. After nine days of intense national media attention, Smith finally confessed that the carjacking tale was false and that she had driven her Mazda into the John D. Long Lake in order to drown her children.
Both Susan and her husband, David Smith, who had had multiple affairs during their on-and-off relationship, had used their children as pawns in their tempestuous marriage. Apparently, Susan was involved with another man who did not want children, and she thought that killing her children was the only way to continue the relationship.
Ironically, Smith's murder came to light because she had covered her tracks too well. While believing that the car and children would be discovered in the lake shortly after the search was started, she never anticipated that the authorities might not be able to find the car. After living under the pressure of the media's scrutiny day after day, Smith buckled. She was convicted on two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In a book David Smith later wrote about the death of his children, Beyond All Reason, he expressed an ambiguous wish to see Susan on death row because he would never be able to relax and live a full life with her in prison.