Two Children Drown in Submerged Car; Mother Arrested

Authories investigate woman's claim it was an accident

August 16, 2010, 3:43 PM

Aug. 16, 2010— -- The bodies of two children were recovered from a car submerged in a South Carolina river this morning and their 29-year-old mother has been arrested, authorities said.

Orangeburg County, S.C., Sheriff Larry Williams said the dead children, both boys, aged 1 and 2, were recovered from the North Edisto River after the car was found near a boat landing early today.

The sheriff would not identify the children or the mother, but a jail official identified the boys' mother as 29-year-old Shaquan Duley and County Coroner Samuetta Marshall said the toddlers were 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley and 2-year-old Devean C. Duley, both of Orangeburg.

Marshall declined to discuss cause of death until the autopsies are completed Tuesday.

The State Highway Patrol was notified about 6:15 a.m. today that there had been an accident and a woman needed help getting her children out of the car, which was sinking in the middle of the river, Williams said.

Divers were brought to the scene, and when the car was lifted from the water about 45 minutes later, the two toddlers were found, dead, still strapped in their child seats, he said.

Williams said the woman had reported that the children were involved in an accident, but he said there were no signs the car had skidded off the road and into the water.

The sheriff said the car, a Chrysler sedan, entered the water from a boat ramp.

"Early in the investigation, the state patrol felt there was not enough indicators to substantiate that there was an automobile accident," Williams said.

And he said his officers agreed.

"My staff were out and they looked at what was there, they felt it wasn't an accident either," he said. "They are giving broad thoughts to other issues. They didn't have any evidence of a vehicle accident."

"We are looking into all possibilities as to what happened," the sheriff said.

Williams said the woman, who did not have a cell phone, left the scene and walked nearly a mile before she flagged down a passing motorist to call the police.

She was arrested and is being held on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident, although additional charges may be filed, the sheriff said.

"She showed some emotion, but I can't say she was overly distraught," Williams said. "Through her statements, there are some things we think are not believable."

Williams said the children's father did not live with the family and authorities were attempting to contact him. He said the woman had one other child.

Reminiscent of 1994 Susan Smith Case

Ramona Millhouse witnessed the effort to save the children.

"One of them carried a little boy off to the ambulance and then there was a girl working with them and she took the other little boy off the stretcher and she carried him to the ambulance," she said.

"Where was the mother? If those we my kids, I would have been there screaming and yelling," Milhouse said.

Williams said the case was "very emotional for my guys," and he was trying to keep them focused on the investigation, "and not be swayed by what they saw."

The story immediately brought to mind the 1994 case of Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who was convicted in the drowning deaths of her two sons, who were found inside her car, which was submerged in a lake. She claimed the children had been kidnapped by a black man who carjacked the vehicle.

ABC News' Steve Osunsami contributed to this report.

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