COLUMBIA, S.C. – A woman accused of killing her two young sons and strapping their bodies in a car she rolled into a river was in a manic state and irate after other family members criticized her parenting skills, her mother told Oprah Winfrey.
Appearing on Thursday's show, Helen Duley said her daughter Shaquan Duley (shah-KWAHN' DOO'-lee) became upset after a fight with her mother and sister over being jobless and unable to care for her children.
"She was highly upset, raging, acting like a crazy person, nothing like I've ever seen her before," Helen Duley said of her daughter on Oprah. "She was depressed about not having a means to take care of the children."
Authorities have said Shaquan Duley, 29, fled with her sons to a motel after arguing and is accused of suffocating the toddlers and then staging a car accident on a boat ramp in a coverup attempt.
Shaquan Duley was charged with two counts of murder after divers recovered the bodies of 2-year-old Devean Duley and 18-month-old Ja'van Duley from the North Edisto River on Aug. 16.
Police say she initially told them she fell asleep at the wheel and the car went into the river about 40 miles south of Columbia. But police said they found no skid marks or signs of a crash.
During hours of questioning, Duley acknowledged suffocating the boys at a motel and driving with the bodies to the river and staging the scene, authorities said. They said Duley told deputies she was distraught after an argument over her parenting.
Depressed, unemployed and failing online classes, Duley lived with her mother, sister and young children, family members said. Authorities said the fight occurred the night before the toddlers' bodies were found.
Duley's sister, Adriane Duley, told Winfrey that after the fight, "She got the children, and she had one under each arm, and she carried them out of the house."
"That was the last that I saw her."
Shaquan Duley's attorney, Carl B. Grant, also appeared on Thursday's show and said Duley was depressed, in part owing to a lack of contact with her children's father. He said he will pursue an insanity defense for his client, who has been denied bond.
Her attorney said Duley was tormented by suicidal thoughts the night of her son's deaths, consumed a dozen packages of a common headache remedy and tried to slit her wrists. When those attempts to kill herself failed, Duley intended to die inside her car in the river before changing her mind and climbing out, Grant has said.
As the family struggles to understand Duley's actions, relatives say they have forgiven her.
"I wish the best for my daughter," Helen Duley said. "Whatever she's dealing with inside, that's between her and God, but I wish the best for my daughter."
No trial date has been set, and prosecutors have not said if they will seek the death penalty.