Inside Susan Smith's Life In Prison Today

When it comes to true crime, some of the cases that seem to shock people the most are also the most incomprehensible. Among those are rare examples in which mothers kill their own children. In this (thankfully) small pool, there are still those that stand out in the minds of the public — and perhaps one of the most well-known in the U.S. is convicted murderer Susan Smith, who, per A&E, was found guilty in 1995 for intentionally killing both of her sons. 

While the crime itself was unspeakable as is, the aftermath of the murders of Smith's children, three-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex, created an almost unprecedented media frenzy at the time, a good part of it perpetrated by Smith herself. And because of this, Smith has become one of the more divisive and reviled criminals in the pantheon of American true crime, her name a sort of short-hand for the dark, obsessive lengths anyone will go to get what they think they want. 

It's been almost 30 years since Smith was put away behind bars to serve a life sentence, and she is next eligible for parole in 2024. So what has Susan Smith's life been like for well over two decades? And is there a possibility that she could set foot into the world again one day as a free woman? Keep on scrolling to find out more.

Susan Smith's early life was tragic

For the unfamiliar, the murders for which Susan Smith was convicted took place in 1994, when she was 23. Not that it justifies a single thing, but her life wasn't easy. According to a TIME, Smith attempted suicide when she was 13, though her mother and Smith's stepfather "refused" to hospitalize her. Her stepfather began sexually abusing her during her high school years, per the outlet.

Though Smith was considered an intelligent and popular student among her peers, officials at her high school knew otherwise. Though the then-teenager reported the ongoing sexual abuse twice to her high school counselor — the first of which resulted in a brief separation between her stepfather, Beverly "Bev" Russell, Jr., who was a "prominent" member of the South Carolina Republican party, per TIME, and the state's Christian Coalition organization — the charges were dropped. Per TIME, Smith later said the relationship continued until roughly six months before she committed murder, and later revised their relationship as "consensual."

After graduating from high school, she then met David Smith, the man who would become the father of her two children. Per NBC, their marriage was marred by periods of separation, which ended in a final, though unofficial, split — and laid the groundwork for what was to come.

Susan Smith's crimes landed her a life sentence

After Susan Smith and her ex-husband David separated for the final time around 1994, the young woman soon entered what in the beginning was a consensual relationship with a man named Tom Findlay. Findlay, who The New York Times described at the time of Smith's trial as "the son of a rich industrialist," was indeed connected to the place Smith herself worked. Findlay put an end to their relationship in the fall of 1994 — but not before he told Smith that, per A&E, that part of their breakup had to do with the fact that he didn't want children. And Smith already had two sons. 

Everything came to a head on October 5, 1994, when Smith took her sons out for a ride on a South Carolina night. Hours later, she called emergency services, frantic, and alleged that an unknown Black man had kidnapped three-year-old Michael and Alex, who had only celebrated his first birthday two months prior. (The racial undertones of Smith's story, which was later proven to be wholly fabricated, were also covered by newspapers like The New York Times.) But as police soon began to realize, the story didn't add up. As NYT summarized, Smith eventually confessed to taking her children to a nearby lake and intentionally "rolling her car down a boat ramp and into the "body of water. She was eventually found guilty of the highly-publicized crime. 

Susan Smith wants parole, but it's unlikely

After being found guilty for the murder of her sons, convicted killer Susan Smith was sent to prison. Her sentence? Ostensibly, one for the remainder of her life. The catch? It comes with the possibility of parole — one that she'll be eligible for in 2024, per the New York Post. And despite reports that Smith hasn't had the most sterling reputation as an inmate during her incarceration at the Leath Correctional Institution in South Carolina, it seems that Smith has her eyes set on her future meeting with the prison parole board.

According to a People report in 2020, a source inside the prison said that Smith is "behaving herself these days." The reason? Per the source, it's because Smith "knows that her parole date is [a few] years away and she can't get parole if she isn't being good." According to the magazine, however, the cards are stacked against her: aside from her status as a murderer, her criminal record — which was obtained by People — contained information which revealed Smith had "been disciplined at least five times for various infractions." Per People, this included "self-mutilation and the use and possession of narcotics or marijuana," and as a result, each infraction cost her "loss of privileges, including loss of visitation, canteen and telephone privileges." Only time will tell if this will aid in keeping her behind bars for good. We can only hope.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit for additional resources.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. You can also find more information, resources, and support at

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.