A South Carolina woman was arraigned Wednesday on two counts of murder for allegedly killing her young sons and strapping their lifeless bodies into their car seats before rolling her vehicle into a South Carolina river.
Shaquan Duley appeared before an Orangeburg County judge for an arraignment hearing on two murder charges. The 29-year-old did not enter a plea and the magistrate did not set bail.
Police say Duley confessed to killing her toddlers, ages 2 years and 18 months, because she "just wanted to get rid of them."
Her attorney, meanwhile, said earlier Wednesday that he hasn't had the opportunity to review any of the evidence against her.
"We want everybody to keep an open mind and to understand that they don't know the whole story," said Carl B. Grant, Duley's attorney.
Grant also said Duley says she's remorseful and has been speaking with the family minister. He added that Duley will likely have a psychiatric evaluation at some point.
Investigators were not convinced when Duley initially said her sons drowned after her car plunged into a river. She ultimately confessed to killing them, they say -- not by dumping them in the water but by suffocating them earlier with her own hands.
"She truly felt, 'If I don't have these toddlers, I can be free,"' Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams said at a news conference Tuesday. "I think she was fed up with her mother telling her she couldn't take care of the children, or she wasn't taking care of the children and just wanted to be free."
Coroner Samuetta Marshall told several media outlets Tuesday the older boy had defensive wounds that suggested he had been in a struggle.
Monday's tragic scene of a car found submerged with children's bodies inside was eerily reminiscent of the 1994 case of another South Carolina mother, Susan Smith, who is serving life in prison for killing her young sons by rolling her car into a lake in the northwest part of the state.
Duley lived with her mother, her sons and her 5-year-old daughter in a rented home along a street filled with boarded-up, abandoned houses in Orangeburg, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Columbia, South Carolina's capital. Out of work and estranged from the children's father, Duley relied on her mother to support her and her children, Williams said.
The sheriff said Duley told investigators her mother constantly harangued her about her failures as a mother and inability to provide for her family financially.
Leaving her daughter at the house after a night of arguing with her mother Sunday, Duley strapped 2-year-old Devean C. Duley and 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley into their car seats and drove the boys to an Orangeburg motel several miles from where she lived.
Late that night, in a corner room tucked at the back of the rundown, one-story motel complex, Duley suffocated the boys with her hands, Williams said. On Tuesday, red evidence tape still sealed the door to that room.
Distraught and not knowing what to do, Duley strapped the boys into their car seats and drove to a boat ramp some 10 miles (16 kilometers) away, investigators said. They said Duley rolled her car into the water, watching as it sank into the slow-moving current, then took off on foot.
Without a cell phone, Duley walked some distance down a country road, flagging down a passing motorist to call the Highway Patrol at around 6:15 a.m. Monday.
The children were still strapped in their child seats when divers found them and recovered their bodies about 45 minutes after being called to the scene.
Duley was initially charged only with leaving the scene of an accident, but Williams said deputies knew there was more to the story than she was telling. There were no skid marks on the road leading to the water, and no obvious signs of a crash.
"We felt that the story she was telling us wasn't factual," Williams said.
Williams said Duley eventually admitted to a female deputy after hours of questioning that she killed the boys, citing the pressures both of parenthood and those she felt from her own mother. He said Duley expressed little remorse about the deaths.
"I think that the opportunity presented itself and she reacted to whatever condition presented itself for her to get rid of the children," Williams said.
Duley's mother declined to speak with reporters camped outside her home Tuesday. A woman who would not identify herself came outside and asked reporters to leave, saying, "We are grieving right now. We need our privacy."
The state agency responsible for child welfare in South Carolina said it has had no involvement with Duley. Williams said the 5-year-old girl is now staying with Duley's mother.
The Associated Press contributed to this report