Susan Smith Keeps a Photo of 2 Sons She Killed in Prison Cell, Says Source: 'Very Tortured Soul'

"She goes through the motions every day, but I wouldn't say she makes much of her life," says a source at the Leath Correctional Institution

Photo: Dave Martin/AP; South Carolina Department of Corrections

Every day, Susan Smith wakes up at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, S.C. She does her job as a Wardkeeper Assistant. She interacts sparingly with other guards and inmates. And then she goes to sleep.

Her only respite: a Bible that she keeps in her cell, along with a photo of the two sons who she killed in 1994.

Because she’s serving a life sentence, the 48-year-old Smith will continue to live this way until she dies.

“She is a very tortured soul,” says a source in the prison. “She goes through the motions every day, but I wouldn’t say she makes much of her life here. She’s just … there. A non-entity.”

“She seems off when you talk to her, like she’s always preoccupied,” the source continues. “But she generally follows orders and instructions, and gets through her days. Sometimes she can be pleasant, but usually she just keeps to herself.”

Dave Martin/AP

Smith’s life behind bars began on October 25, 1994, when she told police that she had been carjacked by a black man who had taken off with her two young sons still in her car. For 9 days, she made tearful pleas for their safe return.

But it was all a lie.

As her story began to unravel, Smith admitted that there was no carjacker, and that she had let her car roll into a lake with Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months, still strapped in their car seats.

Her motive: She was secretly dating a man who didn’t want children. The story became international news, even landing on the cover of PEOPLE. Smith was convicted of two counts of murder and is serving a life sentence.


Now, 25 years later, Smith has spent more than half of her life in prison — and records obtained by PEOPLE show that her incarceration has been marred with disciplinary infractions.

In the past nine years, Smith has been disciplined at least five times for various infractions, including self-mutilation and the use and possession of narcotics or marijuana. Each infraction has resulted in the loss of privileges, including loss of visitation, canteen and telephone privileges.

Twice in 2010 and once in 2015, she was disciplined on drug charges, losing privileges for more than a year.

Susan Smith in August, 2017. South Carolina Department of Corrections

In 2000, Smith was disciplined for having sex four times with 50-year-old prison guard Houston Cagle. He pleaded guilty and spent 3 months in jail. The following year, a prison captain, Alfred Rowe, also pleaded guilty to having sex with Smith and was sentenced to five years probation.

“No one trusts her to be alone with a guard,” says the prison source. “She spends most of her time in her cell or working, but when she’s being transported, there is always a male and female guard with her.”

Michael (left) and Alex Smith. Dave Martin/AP

But Smith claims she has been misunderstood.

In 2015, Smith wrote a letter to The State. “I am not the monster society thinks I am,” she wrote. “I am far from it.”

“Something went very wrong that night. I was not myself,” she continued. “I was a good mother and I loved my boys. There was no motive as it was not even a planned event. I was not in my right mind.”

Smith’s ex-husband — and the father of the boys — told PEOPLE in 2010 that he has never fully recovered from the pain. “There’s always this nagging and gnawing heartache,” David Smith said, “It’s there every day, even if I’m not always conscious of it.”

“She’s in her own private hell,” says the jailhouse source. “It’s all her own fault, and I think she knows it now.”

According to the jail, Smith is not permitted to give interviews. A call to her former attorney has not been returned.

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