UNION, S.C. (AP) _ Susan Smith's family offered apologies to the black community Tuesday for her false claim that a black man had abducted her two sons.

''We apologize to all of the black citizens in Union and everywhere,'' said Scotty Vaughan, Mrs. Smith's brother. He added: ''I'm thankful especially to many of my black friends, who called me to comfort me and tell me they still loved me. It was just a terrible misfortune that all this happened.''

For nine days after her children vanished Oct. 25, Mrs. Smith had claimed a black carjacker had driven off with them. When the car was found in a lake and she was charged with murder, many blacks were angry and hurt as well as sad.

''The apology was needed for the healing process. I think the gesture was well-needed and well-taken,'' said funeral home owner William E. Free III, who is black.

Sheriff Howard Wells said of the apology, ''I believe it'll go a long way into easing the tension and helping us to get back to a state of normal function in the county. I hope that it satisfies everyone.''

The children's father, David Smith, was too ''torn up'' to appeal publicly, his father, Charles David Smith, said at a news conference. Smith said through sobs: ''He wants his children back. That can't happen.''

Mrs. Smith, 23, is charged with rolling her car into a lake with her children, Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months, buckled in their safety seats. She is in isolation at a prison.

Investigators said a possible motive was that Mrs. Smith had recently broken up with a boyfriend who didn't want a ready-made family. She had filed for divorce in September.