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Sheriff’s Report Details Susan Smith’s Molestation Accusations

April 11, 1995

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The woman charged with drowning her two sons told authorities her stepfather fondled her when she was a teen-ager, but she felt she had to protect him because he was ``the only father″ she had.

Susan Smith, who faces a murder trial in July, said the molestation started in the summer of 1987 and continued until a sheriff’s investigation began in March the next year, according to a sheriff’s report released Tuesday.

According to Family Court records released in February, Mrs. Smith’s stepfather, Beverly Russell, was never charged with a crime but signed a March 25, 1988, court decree admitting the allegations.

Mrs. Smith’s lawyers objected to release of the records, saying they will hurt her defense. On Monday, Circuit Judge William Howard became the second judge to release such reports, saying there was no evidence the defense would be harmed. Two newspapers sued for access to the documents.

According to the sheriff’s report, Mrs. Smith was reluctant to pursue charges against Russell.

``She felt like she had to help protect him in these things. But he was basically the only father that she has had,″ the report said.

Russell wouldn’t comment Tuesday.

Mrs. Smith, 23, was charged with murder after confessing in November that she drowned her sons, 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex, by strapping them into her car and rolling it into a lake.

She first claimed they were taken by a carjacker. Later, she said she was suicidal because of a broken relationship.

Mrs. Smith’s attorney, David Bruck, said her life story can’t be fully understood through information released in bits and pieces. He wouldn’t comment further, citing Howard’s order not to discuss the case.

Bruck has said he may pursue a defense of either insanity or guilty but mentally ill. The latter would allow for the death penalty. Howard has ordered Mrs. Smith to be examined by state psychiatrists.

Mrs. Smith told investigators the molestation began when she climbed into Russell’s lap and fell asleep while he watched television. When she awoke, he had moved her bra aside and was fondling her breast, she told investigators.

Russell, Mrs. Smith and her mother visited a therapist four or five times after the first incident, but when they stopped going the molestation began again, the report said.

Russell and Mrs. Smith’s mother, Linda Russell, separated in February.

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