Shaquan Duley Arraigned on Murder Charges; Accused of Suffocating Children, Staging Deaths

Shaquan Duley Arraigned on Charges of Suffocating Children After Staging Their Accidental DeathsABC
The mother charged with suffocating her two children before dumping them in a river to make their deaths appear to be an accident was arraigned in a South Carolina courtroom.

The mother charged with suffocating her two children before dumping them in a river to make their deaths appear like an accident appeared somber today at her arraignment in a South Carolina courtroom on two counts of murder.

With her head down, 29-year-old Shaquan Duley, clad in an orange jumpsuit, was led slowly into the Orangeburg County court by uniformed officers with her hands cuffed in front of her. It appeared that Duley was holding tissues in between her cuffed hands.

Family and friends, many of whom held hands and cried, lined the small courtroom.

Duley said little during the arraignment, during which the judge read her her rights. Duley is represented by attorney Carl B. Grant.

Grant told the Associated Press he wants everyone to "keep an open mind" and to "understand that they don't know the whole story."

911 Call Released in Faked S.C. Child Drownings

"She's tearful, as anybody would be under these circumstances," Grant said after the brief hearing. "She's been very sad, very remorseful about all of this stuff, all of the allegations."

Duley now faces two counts of murder for the deaths of 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley and 2-year-old Devean C. Duley, Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams said at a press conference.

"At the conclusion of our lengthy evening last night the statement was made by the mother that she had suffocated the children and that the children were dead when they were placed in the water," said Williams Tuesday.

VIDEO: S.C. official says Shaquan Duley confessed to smothering her children.Play
Sheriff Says Mom Confessed to Suffocating Her Kids

Williams said that Duley confessed to investigators she suffocated the two children by holding her hand over their mouths at a local motel. She then strapped them into the car seats and drove around until she found a place to get rid of their bodies, he said.

In a 9-1-1 call released by authorities, the owner of a nearby home where Duley went after abandoning her car, alerted police that there were children trapped inside the sinking vehicle.

"Someone ran the car into the pond, and the kids in the pond," said the caller.

VIDEO: Two childrens bodies are recovered from a car in a South Carolina river.Play
Mom Arrested in Kids' Drowning

Listen to the 9-1-1 call here.

At about 7 a.m. Monday, the car -- with the deceased children still strapped into their car seats -- was lifted out of the North Edisto River.

"I cringe for the children," said Williams, who added that Duley has not shown any remorse for the murders.

Duley's actions may have been spurred by a recent dispute with her own mother, with whom Duley and her children lived.

"The night before the kids were placed into the river there was a dispute between Duley and her mother," said Williams. "I believe that [Duley] was fed up with her mother telling her she couldn't take care of the children or that she wasn't taking care of the children."

"I think she truly felt that if she didn't have these two toddlers, she could be free," said Williams. "The responsibility of being a mom is a bit much for her."

Williams added, "In her weakest moment -- her weakest moment resulted in the death of the children."

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Duley's sister, Adriane Duley, said she doesn't think Williams' portrayal of events has been unfair.

"I don't feel that he's dragging my sister through the mud," she said outside the home she shared with her mother, sister, niece and nephews. "I actually feel that he's speaking fairly compassionately on her part."

Duley has another child, a five-year-old, who is currently with Duley's mother, said Williams. It was uncommon for Duley to take all three children with her at the same time, said Williams, a condition that likely spared the life of her third child.

Williams said that Duley could "possibly" have been suffering from post-partum depression and experienced many highs and lows of emotion during her interview with police. Duley told authorities that she was unemployed and had "no way of caring for her children," said Williams.

The childrens' father has not yet been located, said Williams, and Duley had been acting as both "mother and father."

Authorities Questioned Duley's Claim of an Accident From the Start

Authorities had never truly believed Duley's claims that her car, a Chrysler sedan, had accidently plummeted into the river Monday morning.

The state patrol received a call at 6:15 a.m. reporting an automobile accident near a boat landing on the North Edisto River. But investigators found no evidence of car wreck.

"We felt that the story she was telling us wasn't factual," said Williams. "It was our early determination that this vehicle entered the river by intentionally being placed there."

Duley, who did not have a cell phone, had left the scene and walked nearly a mile before she flagged down a passing motorist to call the police, investigators said. She was first charged with leaving the scene of the crime.

But Williams said today that upon further investigation, it became increasingly clear that Duley's story just didn't match up.

"I think she didn't have no where to go," said Williams. "She's been living with her mother, there was a battle with mom and she wanted control but had nothing to control."

"Nothing to control but her kids," he added.

Duley's story has chilling similarities to 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 and Lee Kamlet contributed to this report.