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Tearful Ex-Husband Recalls Susan Smith’s Behavior, His Grief

July 25, 1995

UNION, S.C. (AP) _ Susan Smith’s ex-husband broke down in tears today telling a jury all his hopes and dreams were lost when his ex-wife confessed to drowning their two sons.

David Smith showed no emotion during the first hour of his testimony at Ms. Smith’s sentencing hearing, even as he recalled how she mentioned her lover on the night the frantic search began for the boys.

Then prosecutor Tommy Pope asked how he felt when he saw the sheriff announce Susan Smith’s confession on television Nov. 3.

`All my hopes, all my dreams, everything that I had planned for the rest of my life, it ended that day,″ Smith began softly. ``I didn’t know what to do. It hurt. Everything I had planned on, my life with the kids, was gone,″ he said as he began to cry.

The judge called a recess and Ms. Smith whispered ``I’m sorry, David,″ as she left the courtroom. During the wrenching testimony, Ms. Smith doubled over, leaning across the defense table crying.

At least three jurors also dabbed their eyes.

Later, David Smith identified several snapshots of his sons, then walked along the front of the jury box, his face still wet with tears, holding the photos up one by one for jurors to examine.

Describing one photo of Alex, he said, ``It just shows what a happy little fella he was.″

Anticipating defense cross-examination, Pope asked Smith about a book he was paid to write on the case. Smith said he was keeping about $20,000 from an advance, but that royalties of as much as $300,000 would go to children’s charities.

``Did you write that book to make money off your children?″ Pope asked.

Smith denied it, saying he hoped to use the book to return the public’s focus to his dead sons.

``So many people were portraying Susan as the victim,″ he said.

Smith has said he favors executing his former wife, who was convicted Saturday of two counts of murder. His testimony about her actions before the boys’ deaths is expected to be important in the prosecution’s attempt to get all 12 jurors to approve a death sentence.

The couple’s divorce became final in May while Ms. Smith, 23, sat in prison awaiting trial, but Smith told jurors of a marriage that turned rocky, with physical confrontations, even before their second child was born.

Smith recalled his frantic drive on Oct. 25 to meet his then-wife at a house near John D. Long Lake, where she fabricated a tale that a black carjacker abducted 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex.

He said they were driving back to town when Ms. Smith made ``a very inappropriate statement.″

``She said, `I hope you don’t get mad if Tom Findlay comes to see me at my mom’s,‴ Smith testified. Findlay was her lover who a few days earlier had broken off their relationship.

Smith said he didn’t care who visited. ``My main focus was the kids were missing and we had no idea where they were,″ he said.

Nine days later, Ms. Smith confessed to drowning the boys by rolling her car into the lake with them inside.

Pope expected to complete his presentation today. He planned to show the jury a videotaped re-enactment of Ms. Smith’s car sinking into the lake, though the defense was expected to ask Circuit Judge William Howard to bar the tape.

Smith told jurors how happy he was when Michael was born in October 1991 and he described going to childbirth classes with his wife. ``I cried, Susan cried ... when Michael was born,″ he said.

But within a few months, their marriage was in trouble.

``Money became a big issue between me and Susan. We started having lots of trouble making ends meet with doctor bills. Sex became a problem with me and Susan. She got to where she didn’t desire it as much and, of course, I did, and that became a big problem,″ Smith said.

Once in early 1992, while they were staying at his great-grandmother’s house, his then-wife hit him on the head and ran, he said. He tackled her and told her never to hit him again, Smith said.

Another time, after he returned from work at a local grocery store late one night, his wife told him in bed that she would move back to her mother’s.

``Shamefully, I did grab Susan by her arms and just more or less, dragged her out of the bed and out to the front porch. Didn’t throw her down or anything, just let her down on the porch,″ he said.

Ms. Smith’s lawyers are expected to grill her ex-husband about allegations of his adultery and his book deal.

``I just don’t know if he can create the kind of sympathy for the boys or make the jurors mad enough to kill her when he’s got the book coming and his checkered past,″ said Pete Partee, a Greenville criminal lawyer who is following the trial.

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