Twenty years ago this week, Susan Smith was convicted of strapping her two little boys into their car seats and letting the car roll into a South Carolina lake. After 3-year-old Michael and 1-year-old Alex drowned, Smith made up a story about being carjacked by a black man before admitting the truth nine days later. In a letter to the State, Smith says the public has the wrong idea about her. "I am not the monster society thinks I am," the 43-year-old writes to reporter Harrison Cahill. "I am far from it." For one thing, she disputes prosecutors' contention that she killed the boys to be with a man.
"Something went very wrong that night," writes Smith. "I was not myself. ... There was no motive as it was not even a planned event. I was not in my right mind.” She made up the carjacking story, she says, because "I didn't know how to tell the people who loved Michael & Alex that they would never see them again." She also reveals that she planned to kill herself and leave a note about what happened before the truth came out. Smith is serving a life sentence. NBC recalls a sad coda: In 1996, seven people, including four children, drowned while visiting memorials for the boys at John D. Long Lake.