David Smith for the first time Tuesday told South Carolina’s law enforcement community how important it is for officers to be the voices of abducted or murdered children, even when they have to ask parents the difficult questions.
Smith, 40 and living in Spartanburg, was the keynote speaker at a Columbia training session on child death investigations. He spoke from his personal experience in October 1994 when his estranged wife, Susan Smith, lied about drowning the couple’s sons in a Union County lake. Until she confessed nine days later, David Smith said he had no clue he was married to a child killer.
“It hurt,” Smith said about police asking him if he knew where Michael, 3, and Alex, 18 months, were in the grueling hours after Susan Smith told investigators that a black man kidnapped the boys from the family car and left her behind on a two-lane blacktop just outside of the town of Union.
Addressing the audience at a S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice meeting room comprised of police officers, coroners and others who investigate crimes, Smith cautioned them to be professional and compassionate toward parents. “Please don’t shy away or be intimidated by the parents,” he said. “Ask the tough questions.”
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Smith said he quickly realized that the more he cooperated with investigators and answered their inquiries, the sooner police could shift their attention to finding his children.
“You have to be the voices of those children who are out there,” Smith said.