COLUMBIA, S.C., Aug. 31 -- A South Carolina prison guard will be fired after admitting he had sex at least four times this year with Susan Smith, who is serving a life sentence for the drowning deaths of her two young sons in 1994, prison officials said Thursday.
Houston Cagle, a 13-year veteran of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, was suspended without pay after admitting he had sex with Smith at the Women's Correctional Institution in May and June, department spokesman John Barkley said.
"This is a situation we take extremely seriously," Barkley said. He said the sexual encounters occurred at four different locations on the prison grounds. Cagle had worked at the women's prison since 1996.
"It's a violation both of our agency policy and state law. It's a felony for an employee of the Department of Corrections to have sexual relations with an inmate," he said. The crime is a felony punishable by a 10-year prison sentence.
Barkley said an investigator discovered the relationship while looking into tabloid allegations that Smith had been beaten. He said there was no indication that Smith was beaten or that she had any relationships with other male officers at the prison.
David Thomas, chairman of the South Carolina Senate's Corrections and Penology Committee, said "this puts South Carolina in a very bad light nationwide."
He said his committee planned a special hearing next month to investigate sexual encounters and other misconduct between inmates and officers. "It may be that what we're seeing is only the tip of the iceberg," Thomas said.
Prison officials said last month that two death row inmates were allowed to have conjugal visits with women by a supervisor who resigned in 1997 after an internal investigation.
Smith was sentenced to life in prison for strapping her two sons, ages 3 and 18 months, into the back of her car and rolling it into a South Carolina lake in October 1994. She could be eligible for parole in 2024.
Prosecutors said Smith, who was estranged from her husband, killed her children after her extramarital lover didn't want to marry her when the divorce became final.
Smith had publicly claimed that a mysterious black man had abducted the small boys. She confessed to the killings nine days later.
Smith's mother has said she was driven to murder by depression. Her father committed suicide when she was young and her stepfather had a sexual relationship with her as recently a few months before the murders.
Linda Russell said her daughter has been placed on suicide watch several times while in prison and has developed an eating disorder because of her mental illness.