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Report: Family Ignored Request To Send Smith To Psychiatric Hospital

July 11, 1995

UNION, S.C. (AP) _ Psychologists wanted to send Susan Smith to a psychiatric hospital for treatment of depression and other problems when she was just 13 years old, but her family refused to cooperate, a report said Monday.

If she had gotten help earlier, Ms. Smith, now 23, she might not have drowned 3-year-old Michael and 13-month-old Alex last fall, said Dr. Donald Morgan, chief forensic psychiatrist for the state Mental Health Department.

``If Susan Smith had received help before Oct. 25, it would have made a difference,″ Morgan told a judge Monday.

Ms. Smith’s mental evaluation was released by Circuit Judge William Howard after court recessed Monday. Morgan and his team of doctors at William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute in Columbia found Ms. Smith was sane when she drowned her two sons, although she suffers from severe depression.

The team also said she is competent to stand trial on two murder charges, which carry a possible death penalty.

But Morgan told Howard in court on Monday that he fears that Ms. Smith, who takes antidepressants, will try to sabotage her own defense and ask for death if allowed to testify.

``We consider her at great risk for taking her own life,″ he said.

He was the only person to testify at Ms. Smith’s competency hearing.

Morgan’s report details Ms. Smith’s past as well as her present. The report said a school psychologist started working with Ms. Smith when she was 13 years old.

``It was recommended at that time she be entered into a depression study at the William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute, but this recommendation was not followed by her family,″ the report said.

Calls from The Associated Press to the home of Ms. Smith’s mother, Linda Russell, and to her brother, Scotty Vaughan, were not immediately returned.

Morgan said Monday that Ms. Smith could have inherited a predisposition for depression from her father, Harry Vaughan, who shot himself to death when she was 6.

Ms. Smith also reports having out-of-body psychic experiences, the report said.

``She reports having the past experience of being outside herself and seeing herself,″ the report said. ``These experiences are limited to when she has certain sexual relations.″

Ms. Smith seemed sane right before she drowned her children, the report said.

For nine days, Ms. Smith claimed a carjacker kidnapped her sons, but she confessed Nov. 3 to drowning the boys by letting her car roll into a lake with them inside.

``From her account to us, she was in control and made at least two choices to stop the car and the choice of running out of the car and to a house where she told a self-protective account of the incident,″ the report said.

Susan Brown, the last person to see her before the boys drowned, also said she seemed sane.

``Ms. Brown described Ms. Smith as upset, but did not feel she was suicidal,″ it said.

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