CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Letters from Susan Smith, South Carolina's most notorious prisoner, are up for auction to the highest bidder.
They are a small portion of the inventory offered by a murder memorabilia business. It sells items connected to famous murderers and their crimes through an online auction site called www.murderauction.com.
The website has caught the attention of not just collectors, but also victim advocates who say it's not right to profit from pain.
"I don't know why a citizen, productive citizen would want letters from Susan Smith," said Easter Laroche who is a victim's advocate.
Francis Reeves, who mourns the murder of her son, wants the site gone.
"It's sick. You're just as sick as the killer if you want something like that," Reeves said.
With a few taps at the computer, you'll see a Christmas card signed by prisoner Susan Smith, who was convicted of drowning her two little boys, selling for $65. A painting by Charles Manson is a pricey $7,000.
"Items come from anywhere, from prison gift shops to prison museums. You can get stuff anywhere. A lot of it through the mail, from prisons, from inmates. Some from crime scenes," said William Harder who owns the murder auction website.
Harder says when a well known online auction voluntarily halted the sale of these items, his website was in business.
You may ask, what kind of market is there for this and who would want to buy it? At Lieber prison, which houses South Carolina's death row, spokesman for the department of corrections Clark Newsome says nothing here surprises him.
"You have had people who've actually been interested and actually proposed. You mention Susan Smith. I think she's gotten proposals from men, maybe women too," Newsome said.
Whatever fascination there may be with infamous criminals and their heinous crimes, victims and their advocates say the website crosses the line.
"There should be no profit off of anybody that was murdered," Reeves said.
South Carolina has a law designed to prevent criminals from making a killing off their crimes. Before the law, inmate Steven Stanko co-authored a book on life behind bars. Stanko is back in prison on death row for two Georgetown murders. Stanko was a sort of collector. Investigators found articles on two serial killers in Stanko's home.
Inmates in South Carolina prisons are free to write to folks on the outside. What those people do with the letters, is out of corrections department control.
Visitors at Lieber must be from an approved list, but Newsome says a couple of groupies on that list visit some of the 47 prisoners on Lieber's death row.
"I guess it's a kind of a Bonnie and Clyde type thing, it's still kind of baffling to us," Newsome said.
South Carolina prisoners are not allowed to sell items outside prison walls. But there are some exceptions. They can sell their hobby crafts, but must pay for their own materials and can't keep all the profits.