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Hundreds Join With Family to Mourn 2 Slain South Carolina Brothers : Tragedy: Even those who never knew the children come to say goodby. In her jail cell, their mother is under a suicide watch.

November 06, 1994| from Times Wire Services

UNION, S.C. — Relatives and strangers filed through a flower-filled funeral home Saturday night, mourning in whispers over the single closed coffin that held two little boys who police allege were drowned by their mother.

Their father, David Smith, stood rubbing the coffin and touching a picture of his sons. His family sat in pews with relatives of the boys' mother, Susan Smith.

Mrs. Smith, 23, was in prison near Columbia, charged with murdering 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex.

Some of the hundreds of mourners sobbed and hugged in the funeral home's parking lot after the service.

Roxanne and Michael Toney never met the Smiths, but they drove two hours from Anderson to say goodby to the boys.

"We just couldn't get no peace until we came," said Michael, holding his 2-year-old boy. Earlier they placed flowers at Lake John D. Long, where police divers found the car that Mrs. Smith said had been taken by a man with a gun. The two boys were still buckled in their car seats when it was found.

Flower arrangements came from around the nation, offering Bible references and tender messages to the "precious little ones." Grieving townspeople replaced yellow ribbons of hope with blue ribbons of remembrance.

"I have not stopped crying. I feel like if I could just get up on top of a hill and scream, maybe I'd be all right. But it's going to be a long time," said Joyce Bobo as she tied another bow.

Earlier in the day, David Smith visited the grocery store where he was employed to meet with co-workers. Later, in a TV interview as he walked downtown, Smith thanked everyone for their support, but he would not comment on whether he ever had suspected his estranged wife.

"It's going to take a long time to get back into the groove of things, but I will," he told CBS News.

Mrs. Smith was held in isolation at the Women's Correctional Center near Columbia under a suicide watch. She was visited Saturday by her lawyer and a psychologist, prison spokeswoman Robyn Zimmerman said.

She has not been allowed other visitors. Ordinarily, she would be allowed to exercise each day, but because she is under the suicide watch she is confined to her cell.

Mrs. Smith was charged Thursday with two counts of murder. She had maintained for nine days that her sons were abducted in the carjacking and she made tearful pleas on national television for the boys' safe return.

Investigators reported she confessed, saying she killed her sons after a boyfriend said he was ending their relationship, partly because he did not want to take on the job of raising them.

"Her whole world was crashing," a source said.

Smith took two polygraph tests during those nine days and failed both. One of the key questions on which Smith showed deception was when she was asked if she knew where her children were, a source said.

Scott Moss peered through teary eyes down the boat ramp where authorities say Smith put her car in drive and let it roll into the lake, her sons still strapped inside.

"You know that she could see the back of the heads of those children, if she looked," he said.

Newsweek, citing Smith's confession, reports in its Nov. 14 issue that she told authorities she stood at the water's edge and watched as Michael woke up and struggled to get free before the car flipped and sank.

However, one of her lawyers later told Reuters he had no knowledge of Smith telling police she watched her son die.

Smith filed for divorce a month ago. On Friday, Tom Findlay acknowledged he broke off a relationship with her just a week before the children were killed.

"I was not ready to assume the important responsibilities of being a father," he said, adding that that was not the only reason for the breakup. Findlay was not a suspect, authorities said.

Their funeral was set for today.

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