Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Susan Smith: Child Murderer or Victim?

Family Life

Susan worked at Winn-Dixie until she went into labor. Michael Daniel Smith was born on October 10, 1991 at Mary Black Hospital in Spartanburg. Michaels middle name was chosen in honor of Davids brother, Danny. After Michaels birth, Susan continued to work part-time at Winn-Dixie and enrolled in several college courses at the branch of the University of South Carolina in Union.

Early in their marriage, David and Susan felt a great deal of tension. The tension and trouble was no surprise to their friends. In Union, it was customary for young people to marry after finishing high school and then begin to have children. Young couples often found themselves with demands and responsibilities that exceed their expectations of married life. One of the areas that caused tension between David and Susan was money. According to David, Susan was always interested in material things. Susan also worried about paying the bills and often asked her mother for loans. This angered David. David and Susan earned a fairly good income; David earned about $22,000 a year and Susan earned about $17,000 during the years that they were married.

Another area of tension in Susan and Davids marriage was Linda and Davids relationship. Linda and David did not get along with one another. Linda was very controlling and would often visit the Smiths without calling first. Linda often offered unsolicited advice and opinions about how David and Susan were raising Michael and how to deal with problems in their marriage. According to David, Susan seemed to almost always follow what Linda said.

Another stress on their marriage was the fact that Susan and David both worked at Winn-Dixie. At Winn-Dixie, David was Susans boss. Another problem with David and Susans marriage were their extramarital affairs. By their third wedding anniversary, David and Susan had separated several times. David moved between Moners house and the Smiths house on Toney Road frequently.

During their first separation in March 1992, shortly after their one-year wedding anniversary, Susan rekindled a relationship with a former boyfriend at Winn-Dixie and this angered David.

During another separation in the summer of 1992, Susan and Michael lived at Linda and Bevs home. David and Susan tried to mend their relationship and throughout 1992, David and Susans relationship seesawed back and forth. Susan became pregnant in November 1992. In December, David and Susan decided to try again to live under the same roof. Susan told David that the only chance their relationship had to succeed was if they had their own home. In the winter of 1993, David and Susan brought a small ranch style house with dark red shutters at 407 Toney Road in Union. Bev and Linda provided the down payment.

Susans second pregnancy was not as happy an experience as her first with Michael. David remembers that Susan complained non-stop about becoming "fat and ugly." Slowly, Susan began to shut David out of her life. She complained about the physical aspects of their relationship and stopped sharing anecdotes about Michael with David. David became lonely and wanted someone to talk to. In June 1993, David began a relationship with a cashier at Winn-Dixie, Tiffany Moss. Susan and Tiffany had attended high school together at the same time. They were not friends, but they knew each other. Susan was jealous of David. Employees at Winn-Dixie remember incidents when Susan would visit David and scream at him when she saw David talking to women in the store.

Michael and Alexander (AP)
Michael and Alexander (AP)
Susan and Davids second son Alexander Tyler was born on August 5, 1993. Susan had an emergency Cesarean section. After Alexs birth, Susan and David put aside their differences for a short time in order to settle their new baby at home and allow Susan time to heal from her Cesarean. Within three weeks of Alexs birth, Susan and David decided that their relationship was over and David moved out of the Toney Road house and into Moners house. Although Susan and Davids marriage was troubled and headed for divorce, by all accounts, Susan and David were devoted parents who adored their children.

After recovering from Alexs birth, Susan found a new job at Conso Products. Susan decided that she could not return to Winn-Dixie because she was not getting along with David, who would be her supervisor. Nor did she want to work in the same place as Davids girlfriend, Tiffany Moss.

Susan was hired as a bookkeeper at Conso Products and eventually became the assistant to the executive secretary for J. Carey Findlay, the president and CEO of Conso. Findlay was an accountant from Charlotte, North Carolina, who bought Conso in 1986 with a group of investors. They had originally planned to reorganize Conso and turn around and sell the company for a quick profit, but Findlay was excited by the business and bought out his partners in 1988. Findlay settled permanently in Union and purchased an estate seven miles south of Union. In November 1993, Conso Products announced a public offering of its stock, becoming the first publicly owned corporation in Union. At the end of 1993, Conso had factories in Great Britain, Canada and Mexico.

Susan enjoyed working at Conso. She liked the responsibilities she had handling hotel arrangements for out-of-town clients, ordering flowers and arranging for Findlays travel. Susan was exposed to elements of an expensive lifestyle were foreign to her. Susan also enjoyed working at Conso for another reason: Tom Findlay. Tom was one of three sons of J. Carey Findlay. Tom was twenty-seven and had grown up in an upscale suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Tom had graduated with a bachelors degree from Auburn University in 1990 and had moved to Union to work as the head of the graphic arts department of Conso. Tom was responsible for designing and producing Consos brochures. He was popular with young women in Union, because he was young, rich and available.

Conso also provided Susan with a new group of friends and Susan spent a lot of time socializing with them at Unions only bar, Hickory Nuts, which opened during the summer of 1993.

During Susan and Davids last separation before Susan filed for divorce, Tom and Susan began to date. Beginning in January 1994 and for a period of several months, Susan and Tom frequently met for lunch or went to the movies. Susan visited Tom at his cottage on his fathers estate and attended several parties thrown by Tom there.

During the spring and early summer of 1994, Susan and David tried one final time to make their marriage work. David moved back to the Toney Road house and stopped seeing Tiffany. During this time Susan and Tom had broken off their relationship as well. At the end of July 1994, Susan told David that she wanted a divorce. David had wanted the marriage to work, especially because he believed his sons needed their mother and father together.

In August, David rented a two-bedroom apartment in the Lakeside Gardens complex about two miles from the house Susan, Michael and Alex lived in on Toney Road. David brought new furniture for his apartment and set up a bedroom with a bed, a crib and new toys for Michael and Alex.

At the beginning of September, Susan began to believe that her life was finally settling down. She and David had an amicable relationship centered on taking care of their sons and Susan was beginning to believe that her dreams of love and stability might be realized with Tom Findlay, who she had begun to date again in September. However, Tom Findlay had different ideas. Tom liked Susan but he ended their relationship because he began to feel that Susan was too possessive and too needy.

Tom Findlay (AP)
Tom Findlay (AP)
On September 21st, Susans attorney served divorce papers on David. Susan sought a divorce on the grounds of adultery. On October 21st, Susans divorce papers were filed at the Union county courthouse; several days earlier she had received Tom Findlays "Dear John" letter. Susan was furious and she sought Tom out at his cottage on Sunday, October 23 in the hope of restoring her relationship with him. Susan tried to gain Toms sympathy by telling him about her sexual relationship with Bev Russell, but this only seemed to shock Tom.