Many people believe that Alice Crimmins got away with the 1965 murder of her two children. (Read my views on the Crimmins case here.) But could the Crimmins case have provided fodder for a future child killer?
Alice Crimmins always maintained her innocence, but the police and much of the press believed Alice Crimmins was a slut and therefore a murderer. She was convicted of manslaughter, but that conviction was overturned. She was retried in 1971 and convicted of the first-degree murder of her son and manslaughter of her daughter. In 1973, she was again set free. Upon review, the Appellate Division reversed the murder conviction, and affirmed the manslaughter conviction, but Crimmins never returned to jail. While in jail she had married her wealthy lover, Anthony Grace. She lived with him, and his money, until his death.
Fast forward to October 25, 1994. Susan Smith, then 23, claims that a black man hijacked her car and drove away with her children inside. A nation watches horrified as the grieving mother makes emotional pleas on television for the safe return of her two small boys, three-year old Michael, and 14-month old Alex. Nine days later, the children are found dead, strapped into their seats in the car, lying at the bottom of John D. Long Lake in Union, South Carolina.
The police arrested Smith and tried her for murder.
Was history repeating itself? Or is it possible that Susan Smith knew Alice Crimmins’s story? A made-for-TV movie called A Question of Guilt based on the Crimmins affair came out in 1978. John Guare wrote a play inspired by Crimmins, Landscape of the Body, that opened in 1977 and has since been restaged many times. Two Small Bodies by Neal Bell was made into a film in 1993.
Did Smith decide that if one slut could murder her kids and walk away with a rich husband, why not two?
Sheer speculation, to be sure, but Smith might easily have seen some of herself in Alice Crimmins. Both were in troubled marriages, both had wealthy men on the side, both had two children cramping their style.
[An awful tale, old as time...]