COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina mother sentenced to life in prison for killing her two young sons never planned to kill them and instead intended to end her own life, according to a letter she wrote to a Columbia newspaper.

"I had planned to kill myself first and leave a note behind telling what had happened," Susan Smith said in a letter to The State newspaper (http://bit.ly/1g4QgBa ). "I didn't believe I could face my family when the truth was revealed."

Smith, now 43, was convicted in 1995 of leaving her sons strapped in their car seats as she rolled her car into a Union County lake in the northwestern part of the state. The case incensed the black community because Smith claimed a black man carjacked her and drove off with the children.

Prosecutors said Smith killed her sons because a wealthy, well-connected man she was having an affair with cut off the relationship. A prosecutor sought the death penalty, but Smith was sentenced to life in prison.

In the letter, reported in Wednesday's newspaper editions, Smith wrote that she loved 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex and had not planned to kill them.

"Something went very wrong that night. I was not myself," she wrote. "I was a good mother and I loved my boys. ... There was no motive as it was not even a planned event. I was not in my right mind."

Smith said she only lied about the kidnapping because she didn't know what to tell people about their deaths.

"I am not the monster society thinks I am," she wrote. "I am far from it."

Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of Smith's conviction.

The letter was not Smith's first communication from prison. She corresponded with Keira V. Williams, over a period of months, for her book, "Gendered Politics in the Modern South: The Susan Smith Case and the Rise of a New Sexism," published in 2012. It focuses more on the example of Smith's case in gender and politics.

Smith also submitted a handwritten appeal of her case in 2010, arguing unspecified allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and said she was abused by her ex-husband.

She did not detail the abuse and a prosecutor who tried her said an investigation did not find any wrongdoing by her ex-husband.

Gov. Nikki Haley that year also denied a request from Oprah Winfrey to interview Smith in prison. Winfrey had been pursuing the request for years.

The Associated Press has sought unsuccessfully to interview Smith since her conviction in 1995.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com