I Am Not A Monster! | The Susan Leigh Smith Story

(Susan Smith. Picture credit: biography)

When it comes to traumatic childhoods. nobody could say that Susan Leigh Smith had an easy road. In fact a lot of people reading her story would wonder how she managed to make it through and truthfully speaking she almost didn't. But this isn't a post to pour out all of the sympathies for Susan Leigh Smith, it is a post about her crimes and as always I like to take a little delve back into the past to show a murderer's background, to give you an idea of where they came from and the circumstances surrounding their upbringing. 

Before I go further into my 68th case. I just want to remind you that I post new cases on here every week (Sundays) as well as other blogs, writings and podcasts on my other platforms which you can find here. If you are interested in making a donation to help support my weekly content, my PayPal is here


So, back to the case. Susan Leigh Smith as I mentioned at the beginning of the post had a really difficult childhood with having lost her father from suicide at the age of just 6 years old and attempting to take her own life at 13. As if those tragic circumstances were not enough, her mother's new husband had also been sexually abusing her. I should have mentioned at the beginning of this post that some of the details that I will be sharing will be quite disturbing but I will be as sensitive with the details as I can. As always, if you feel that you can't continue reading the post, I completely understand.

Susan was born on the 26th of September 1971 (she will be 50 this year, 2021) in Union, South Carolina (USA) and although her home life was troubled, Susan was a very bright girl and seemed to get on very well at school and was very popular. She was known at school as a very friendly and fun girl who was often awarded for her good deeds and caring personality. 

It was like Susan was living two lives, one of the scared child who was still trying to come to terms with the death of her father whilst having to deal with her horrendous stepfather, and the other who seemed to be the life and soul of the party at school and excelled at everything she turned her hand to.

As Susan got older, the cracks were beginning to show and she began having an affair with a married man in her later teenage years. Being a girl who was starved of affection and so desperate for some love and proper attention, this relationship became everything to her. Susan wanted the fairy tale, the married man had other ideas. Despite the relationship being rocky, Susan managed to graduate school with flying colours but then came the bombshell. The married man cut all ties with her and she fell to pieces. 

She was just a young girl with her whole life in front of her but here she was again, attempting to take her own life, feeling abandoned and used yet again. This became a theme for Susan over the coming years. She based a lot of importance on romantic relationships and if they didn't go her way she would fall into a deep depression.

There was a ray of light in all of the darkness when she met and married David Smith and they would go on to have two beautiful boys. They looked like the perfect family but sadly that all fell to pieces because the couple had struggled to trust one another and constantly accused each other of having affairs. There was a constant saga of on again, off again before the pair finally called it quits.

Susan found herself on her own again but she wasn't fully alone, she had her two beautiful boys and for some people that would have been enough but not for Susan. Susan had this idea of how she wanted her life to be and she wanted the perfect relationship especially if it was with someone who had money.

Susan ended up getting together with a wealthy man and the pair had fun but it was obvious that they both wanted different things. It seemed that the man was looking for some no-strings attached fun but as always, Susan wanted more. The man wrote Susan a letter basically telling her that he didn't want to carry the relationship any further because of her two children.

Instead of ripping up the letter, throwing it in the bin and saying good riddance! Susan began to see her children as a real problem. Instead of looking at herself, her own behaviour and actions, she began to believe that the reason she wasn't finding happiness in a luxurious lifestyle with men was because she had the two boys always around her, like they were cramping her style and she didn't feel young, free and sexy having to drag two kids around the place. It's obvious that she was just unlucky with men too, the ones she met seemed to be out for a good time and nothing else whereas it was very possible that she could have met someone decent one day who would have had no problems with the children.

Susan went over this time and again in her mind and she thought about what her life would have been like with that wealthy man had she not have had the children around. 

Then something truly horrible happened on the 25th of October 1994. Susan reported to the police that she had been carjacked by a black man who took both of the children away.

The whole community and beyond was shocked and felt devastated for this young woman who was crying to the TV cameras begging for someone to bring her children home safe. Her ex husband David stood by her side and held her hand through the whole ordeal. For nine days Susan put on the performance of a lifetime in front of the police, the community and the media.

(Susan and David. Picture credit: Penn Live )

Then the truth came out...

There was no black man who attacked her and took the children, nobody else was to blame. Susan took her two beautiful young boys, Michael (3) and Alexander (14 months old), strapped them tightly into the car and let it roll into a lake (known as the John D. Long lake in South Carolina, USA) and just stood there as her two boys drowned to death. 

And for those nine days after she murdered her two children she lied and manipulated everyone around her. She stood there for nine days, looked people in the eye, watched people search for her children knowing full well what she had done.

One can have sympathy about Susan's childhood and all that she went through but she was a very smart woman, she knew what she was doing and when things didn't go her way or somebody told her no, all hell broke loose and this time she murdered her own children because she was selfish, wanted (in her eyes) a care free life, maybe get that wealthy guy who didn't want kids to come back again now that the kids were out of the picture? 

This wasn't just a random act by someone who was too ill to know what they were doing. She planned it, she lied about it on a massive scale, stood by and watched the police and members of the public continue to search for the boys. She managed to carry on her performance for nine days, even lying to her children's father David.

And one can only imagine how David must have felt, he stood by her through the whole thing, worried sick about his children and then finding out someone had killed them and that someone was his ex-wife who he had been comforting all of this time. 

(A beautiful little memorial for Alexander and Michael at the lake: Picture credit: AE Networks)

My mind also goes to the wealthy guy who wrote the letter to Susan saying that he didn't want her children. Yes, the guy sounded like a right rat bag but we don't know the full story of the relationship, there might have been more to it. Susan might have been an nightmare to be with because of past issues and lack of trust. I wonder how he felt, if he felt a huge amount of guilt but I'm not blaming the guy for what Susan did, he would have had no idea what was coming. I think (in my opinion) that Susan would have done this anyway whatever the circumstances. She seemed to be a ticking time bomb and if it wasn't going to be herself she harmed it was going to be other people and it would have only been a matter of time. 

On the 3rd of November 1994 with the net closing in and no more lies to tell, Susan finally confessed. She claimed that she wasn't in the right frame of mind when it happened and she didn't have a motive.

At her trial the prosecution believed that Susan knew fine well what she was doing when she killed her children and believed that the letter from her ex wealthy lover was the straw that broke the camels back. Also taking into consideration the way she manipulated everyone around her. They wanted to sentence her to death but the jury (possibly taking into consideration her traumatic past) found her guilty and she was sentenced to life in prison.

(Susan Leigh Smith in recent times. Picture credit: Daily Mail)

Her defence team used her past to gain some sympathy and told the court that Susan drove herself and the two boys to the lake as she was going to take her own life as well their lives, apparently she decided not to end her own life. 

Through the years that Susan has been behind bars, trouble had always been with her. If it hasn't been drugs that she's been involved in, it's been two highly publicised encounters with prison guards. Susan and the guards had sex which somehow got discovered resulting in the guards being transferred to other prisons.

Susan is said to be eligible for parole in 2024, not too far away and she turns 50 this year. In interviews over the years she has claimed that she isn't a monster and down played her role in her sons deaths. Whatever your thoughts are on this case, I'm sure people will have very different opinions. 


Thank you for taking the time to read my latest case and I'll hopefully see you in the next one x 


RIP Michael & Alexander. 


Further reading & sources:

Susan Smith Article | New York Post

Susan Smith | Murderpedia

Susan Smith | News Clip

Susan Smith | Wikipedia

Susan Smith | Inside Edition


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Almost Got Away With It: The List Family Murders

 

(Guilt written all over his face. John List. Picture credit: Edition.CNN)

Hope everyone is keeping themselves safe during these difficult times, wearing their masks and taking the proper precautions. 2020 was a difficult year and 2021 is looking like we are not out of the woods yet either. All we can do is keep going and I hope that my posts have been helping during this time to focus your mind elsewhere. I know I cover a lot of dark subjects but sometimes it helps to take a break from all that is going on in our current situation.

So here we are at my 67th case and this week I'm delving into a case from the 1970s and I'm sure the name John List rings a few bells for you. Well, if you know a little bit about him or are not familiar with this story then grab a coffee, get comfortable and prepare to be shocked because this case is a real roller coaster. 

Before I begin, just a reminder that you can find me elsewhere on social media here and if you would like to donate to help keep my blogs and weekly content going, you can do so here. For subscriptions, bonus content etc, check out Patreon and Ko-fi. For all enquiries, please email me at: caledoniankblog@yahoo.co.uk or jocaledoniankitty@gmail.com 

So, let's begin...

John Emil List was born on the 17th of September 1925, the only child of parents John and Alma in Bay City, Michigan (USA). His parents were religious and took their Lutheran faith very seriously. John Snr was an active member of the church and held Sunday school classes, something which his son would later go on to do. John Jr's childhood was quite a lonely one, his mother encouraged him not to get too close to other children in case he got dirty and picked up germs so he was often on the outside looking in. Despite his social problems, John Jr was quite an intelligent child and very good with numbers.  He later enlisted in the United States Army as a Laboratory Technician before obtaining two bachelor's degrees (one in business administration and the other in accounting) at the University of Michigan.

In November of 1940, John met his first wife, Helen Morris Taylor when he was recalled to active military service. Helen was a single mother of one daughter, Brenda. Helen had recently lost her husband in the war and she and John seemed to just click and the pair married in 1951. John was still in the Army at this point but had been moved over to the Finance Corps due to his accountancy skills which seemed to impress everyone around him. 

In 1952, John focused more on his accountancy career and enjoyed the salary that went with it, not long after that he'd been promoted to audit supervisor at the firm he'd been employed at and the couple went on to have three children, two sons (Frederick and John Jr) and one daughter (Patricia).  In the late 50s all seemed to be going well career wise for John but things were not so rosy at home. For whatever reason, Helen began drinking heavily and her dependence on alcohol put a strain on both the marriage and the household itself. Brenda moved out and got married. 

After Brenda moved out John was offered another job at Xerox in New York so he and the family relocated there where more career success for John continued as he worked his way up to a Director position in the company. The family were living a more luxurious lifestyle and this suited John down to the ground as he was always about appearances and wanted to be the envy of people around him. 

John was always someone who chased after the bigger goal and in 1965 he accepted yet another job offer and this time it was for Vice President Comptroller at a bank. At this point money was no object for John and by now, he and his family at gotten used to the high life, the designer clothes, the expensive Tiffany pieces, the paintings and now a beautiful 19 room Victorian mansion called Breeze Knoll. 

To anyone on the outside, the Lists had it all, spending money like it was going out of fashion, beautiful mansion, always stylishly dressed. They looked like the perfect family, always attending church and well spoken but there was something not quite right about the whole picture. Although they were always polite and pleasant to talk to, the family kept themselves to themselves and John was very much the head of the family. John himself always seemed to be a bit held back, always a mystery about him. A legacy from his childhood days when his mother told him not to get too close to others, he seemed to carry this through to adulthood, even at that point in his 40s. 

Like John, his children were intelligent and each of them did well at school. In the household itself lived both John and his wife, the three children and John's mother Alma who stayed upstairs in the attic which had been converted into a little apartment.

John's father died in 1944 so one wonder's if he later invited his mother to come and live with the family due to her being on her own or if she had suffered ill health but didn't want to go into a care home. Whatever the case, Alma lived with the family but the house was big enough for there to be a decent level of privacy. 

So, everything was perfect or was it? Come the early 70s and John was out of luck. The gravy train had come to an abrupt halt when the Jersey Bank was closed down. John was always someone who landed on his feet no matter the situation but this time, every door seemed to be closed. He tried to get another job but was getting nowhere. He was behind with the mortgage payments and ended up having to steal money out of Alma's accounts to keep the bailiffs at bay. 

(The List Family. Picture credit: Film Daily

Carrying the heavy burden on his back, John never told his family or anyone (not that he was one for opening up about private matters anyway). For him to have told his family what was going on he would have felt like a failure and being such a proud man he would have dreaded people of the community finding out too. So John got up early every day, put his suit on, put his lunch that his wife had made for him in his briefcase and pretended to go to work. 

He passed away the days sitting in the train station reading newspapers and magazines. John had a lot of time on his hands. A lot of time to think and it obviously occurred to him that there was only so much longer that he could keep this performance up. 

Then it came down to a difficult decision for John, either he come clean and tell his family the truth, sell all of their items, say goodbye to Breeze Knoll, the luxurious lifestyle, the respect, the status, move to a small apartment and live on wellfare or in his mind, put an end to everyone's lives. 

Reading this you may have been reminded of another case I covered (Christopher Foster: The Millionaire & The Mansion of Horror) where a man by the name of Christopher Foster came into financial difficulties after using money from his own company to fund his and his family's expensive lifestyle only to end up completely broke with the taxman and bailiff's ready to knock on his door. We remember how that tragic case ended with him being selfish (that's my opinion) and murdering his young daughter, their pets and his wife before taking his own life whilst the mansion and the land around it burnt down as he intended it to. Christopher's mother (who was a bit delusional and couldn't see him do a thing wrong) tried to paint it as Christopher saving his family from the humiliation of having to leave the lifestyle they had become accustomed to. Based on my own research and what others have said about him (his brother being interviewed about the sexual abuse and torment he suffered for years at the hands of Christopher), the affairs with other women and his arrogance. Christopher wasn't the butter wouldn't melt family man that his mother would have liked to believe. This was a case of 'If I can't have you and I can't have this. Then nobody can'. I don't know what your opinion is on that case but go and check it out if you like and see what you think. 

Anyway, back to the current case.... John took the horrific decision to murder his whole family. He even planned to murder Helen's mother by inviting her to stay just in time for him to carry out his sickening acts but she was too ill to make the journey. 

He had it all planned and on the 9th of November 1971, the morning started like any other. Helen was in the kitchen having her morning coffee, Alma was upstairs, the kids had just gone to school and John decided that today was the day that his family were going to meet their end. 

He had two guns, one belonged to his late father and the other was his own. A 9mm Steyr handgun and a .22-Caliber revolver. He just walked up to his wife and shot her in the back of her head before going upstairs and shooting his mother, the bullet entering just above her left eye. He then went back downstairs, did the dishes and had some lunch whilst waiting for two of his children to come home. When Patricia and Frederick came home he shot them both in the back of the head. John then left the house (and had organised for his and Alma's bank accounts to be closed and had sent letters to the Children's schools informing the teachers that the children would be visiting their grandmother for a few weeks. He'd also cancelled the milk delivery, the newspapers and the mail) stopping off at the bank before making his way to his eldest son's (John Jr) school to watch him play soccer before bringing him back home.

(Breeze Knoll. Picture credit: Film Daily)

The way John carried out the murders with such cold, meticulous planning is chilling. He took the lives of his own family but was as cool as a cucumber about the whole thing. He drove his son back to the house of horror and proceeded to shoot the boy but John Jr wasn't going down without a fight. The poor boy was shot so many times by his father in what must have been the most horrific and terrifying ordeal. Eventually John Jr fell to the floor and John Sr placed his body with Helen, Patricia and Frederick on top of sleeping bags in the ballroom. Alma remained upstairs as she was ''too heavy to move''. 

John cleaned up the blood and tidied the house before cutting his face out of family photographs and sitting down to write a five page letter to his pastor. Once he was finished writing, he left the letter on the top of his desk and turned all of the lights on in the house. He adjusted the thermostat, put on the radio and selected a religious channel to play continuously throughout the house.

Then he left. 

John took the money he had withdrawn from the bank accounts, some clothes and drove the family car to John F Kennedy airport where he dumped the car and boarded a train to Michigan and then to Denver where he set up his new life and changed his name to Bob Clark (after a former fellow student from the University of Michigan). He managed to get a job and became a member of the local church. Back in the early 70s it was easy for people to drift from one place to the other undetected, they didn't have CCTV or mobile phones back then. When it came to job references and such, employers were not as thorough as they are now. 

Weeks went by after the murders and the bodies laid in the house. Nobody suspected a thing at first although they did wonder why every light was on in the house, maybe someone was house sitting? But then the neighbours noticed that the lights were on 24 hours a day with no other activity and one by one they started to go out. Nobody knew what to make of it especially as John and his family pretty much kept themselves to themselves anyway. The police were called and came out to do an inspection and felt that there was nothing untoward going on. It was only when Patricia's drama coach contacted the police and begged them to force entry into the house because he felt something was very wrong. The police entered the house and they found the bodies in the ballroom. A search for John List was now underway.

To others it looked like and open and shut case, John was the culprit so find him and arrest him they thought. It wasn't so easy. John had been planning this for a while and did what he could to cover his tracks. It might not have been so easy for him in this day and age but back then in the early 70s he managed to out smart the police, but only for so long.

Nearly EIGHTEEN YEARS John List lived as Bob Clark, right under everyone's noses and nobody knew. hidden in plain sight and if that wasn't bad enough, he had met and married a poor, unsuspecting woman, Dolores Miller who he had met through the church. Dolores had no idea that the loving, kind man she had married was actually a monster who had murdered his family years before. 

Again, John had managed to land on his feet for a good few years but eventually for him the party was over. Dolores and John moved to Virginia towards the end of the 1980s and unfortunately for John, a programme was aired on TV, America's Most Wanted and John was the star of the show. They went into detail about his case and even had an age progressed bust of John's face by forensic artist Frank Bender and it was shockingly accurate. 

Just two weeks after this show, someone blew the whistle on John. A former neighbour contacted authorities and John was taken into custody in 1989, not surprisingly Dolores ran for the hills and divorced him although he pleaded ignorant the whole situation and claimed to be Bob Clark. John went on for months denying that he was in fact THE John List but eventually after the police had shown him the mountains of evidence, his finger prints from his military records matching those found at the crime scene all those years before, John gave up the ghost and confessed.

On the 12th of April 1990, John Emil List was convicted of five counts of first degree murder. He claimed that he murdered his family as a result of post traumatic stress disorder from the years he had spent in the Army. He also said that he killed them so they would go to heaven. He felt that his family had become too materialistic and forgot about the true meaning of life.

He tried to appeal his sentences but they got thrown out.

In 2002 he was interviewed in prison where he repeated the same things he said during his trial, that he murdered his family to save their souls. He was also asked why he didn't take his own life and he explained that he thought he would not get into heaven if he had done. He also said that he was sorry for what he had done. 

John Emil List died on the 21st of March 2008 at the age of 82 from complications of Pneumonia. 

The Breeze Knoll mysteriously burned down just nine month after the murders. To this day, nobody knows who caused the fire. Could John have returned to the house or was it some random act by some unknown person? Perhaps we will never know. A new house was built on the site.

You may also be interested to know that the movie The Stepfather (1987) was based on this case. I have to watch that movie again, it's really good (in my opinion) although they have changed a few details it's worth a watch. There was also another movie based on the case: Judgment Day: The John List Story which you can find online (by the way, I found the movie, you can watch it here). I will include all links for further reading, my sources and documentaries on the case below.

Thank you for checking out this week's case and I hope you join me next Sunday for another one. If you would like to hear my thoughts or get exclusive access to bonus content, check out my links below.

See you in the next post x 

RIP to Helen, Alma, Patricia, Frederick and John Jr.

Further reading & sources:


You can find me on the following:


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5 Of My Most Popular True Crime Posts....So Far + My Thoughts



So, I wanted to just start 2021 on my blog with a sort of recap on some of the cases which I have covered so far. Having written over 65 cases I decided to pick out five of the most popular just in case you missed them or you are a new reader just discovering my blog for the first time (welcome). 

Here are five of my most popular posts....so far! I hope you find them informative and don't forget to check out my other socials and Patreon for more exclusive content, podcasts, erotic stories and more. 


I wrote this story all the way back in 2019. As a fan of 80s movies, especially the Molly Ringwald/Brat Pack movies, I was shocked to hear that one of the stars of Pretty In Pink, a promising young actress by the name of Alexa Kenin had died. I did a search online to find out what had happened to her and it took me a very long time and a lot of research to get some answers. Rumours flew around for years about Alexa's death and I wanted to write about it as I knew there were many people out there who were also wondering what happened to her. Quite a number of people contacted me to say that they didn't even know she had died until they read my post. 

I often wonder what could have been for Alexa and where she would be today. I'm sure her career would have continued. I hope she's resting in peace and it is a comfort to know that so many people still think of her and enjoy the work she left behind. I also feel honoured to have written such a popular post which also helps keeps Alexa's memory alive. 


This was another case I wrote about back in 2019 and it has also gotten thousands of views. It was a shocking case that occurred in the 90s and it caused a bit of a stir when I posted it, I was getting dozens of messages including one from the victim's daughter who contacted me to thank me for writing the full story. It was a big case for me to write about and and took a few posts in a lot of detail but I'm proud of how hard I worked on it and the fact that it's still getting views to this day. It's important to keep the memories of all victims alive and they deserve to have their stories heard. After I covered this case I was happy to see that some You Tubers covered the story (using my blog as one of their references). 


This was a gut-wrenching case to write about and I remember being up until the wee small hours working on each post. I got so lost in this case trying to cover every detail and it's one I have never forgotten. I actually saw a horror movie that was supposed to be based on this case, I'd never heard about it before until I started to do my research and I was horrified. I was horrified and angry but I wanted Sylvia's story to be heard. Luckily there's been quite a number of podcasts, channels, blogs etc who have covered the case and the memory of Sylvia and who she really was (more than just a victim who went through absolute hell). I remember at the end of writing the final post I felt a sense of relief that it was over, it was harrowing to think about what Sylvia went through. Even as I type this now, I'm still shocked that this could have ever happened and I know that a lot of people have never ever forgotten this case. 


I only just wrote about this case a few weeks ago and it's already number four on my popular case list. I had known about this awful story for a number of years and a few weeks ago it came back to me when I was sorting out lists for future cases to cover. When I was doing my research to refresh my memory of the exact details, I was shocked to see that nobody else in the true crime community had covered the case. Hopefully (like in a few previous cases) someone will come across my blog and be inspired to share the case with their viewers, readers or listeners (just as long as they reference me, if they check out my blog as part of their research lol). 

What a sickening case this was and I had a number of messages about Mitchell. I included clips at the end of my post and people commented about how he had evil in his eyes and they wouldn't have trusted him in a second. Mitchell Quy is a very evil, manipulative and twisted individual and I'm glad right now that he is still in prison. He needs to stay there and I'm angry that his brother was released so early. I know there's quite a number of people from the local area (where the case took place) who keep an eye on the newspapers to see what's happening with Mitchell. I will be doing updates on this case and any other previous cases I have covered as soon as I get the correct information. 


This was another case that wasn't covered by any other True Crimer at the time. I'd been following the case in the news and decided to write about it. This terrible and frightening story of this beautiful young girl who had everything to live for, her whole life ahead of her and here comes along this disgusting and evil individual. It was a scary story and a situation that many a young woman or man (anyone of any age to be honest) could be in. Being out with friends for a few drinks, having one too many and trying to get home safe. It's such a shocking case and such a waste of such a beautiful and popular girl's life. 

Well, I hope you found this post interesting going back down memory lane of some of the cases I have covered, this is only five out of 66 cases so if you're new to my blog, you've got plenty of reading to keep you busy. I will be back next week, Sunday to be exact with a fresh new case for 2021. I already have a huge list of cases I am interested in covering and I have requests from my subscribers on Patreon

I hope you'll continue to join me for the rest of this year on Sundays for more true crime stories. Don't forget to check me out elsewhere and if you would like to help support my work (that would be amazing), you can do so here


Thank you for all of the support. See you in the next post (the 67th case) x


You can find me on the following:


- Donations: My Paypal


- Instagram: @KittysOnTheCase

- My Personal Blog, Updates, Pics etc: CaledonianKitty (Ko-fi)

- My Amazon Wishlist

- Follow my cats on Twitter: @xMercuryMeow @GobbolinoX

- Check out my shop for gorgeous bargains: CaledonianKittyx

- My Youtube Channel: Caledonian Kitty

- My Backup Instagram: @VampireKittyx


- For all other enquiries, to discuss a case etc, drop me a line anytime at jocaledoniankitty@gmail.com


Shoutout to my Patrons & Subscribers!!!

- Shilo, please check out his incredible guitar skills on his Twitter and Youtube channel.

- Jean Nicolas, follow him on Twitter and Instagram

- Michael, follow him on Instagram

- Dean, follow him on Twitter


These guys are amazing and I thank them all so much for their support.


Check out my Patreon for True Crime & More... 


Check out some of the true crime cases I have covered previously: