ORANGEBURG -- A mother accused of smothering her two toddlers and sending them to a watery grave is distraught, tearful and remorseful in the wake of her arrest on murder charges, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Shaquan Duley's relatives sobbed as the 29-year-old mother shuffled into a courtroom in shackles to be arraigned on the charges. Duley, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and bound at the ankles and wrists, hung her head and averted her eyes from the packed courtroom of spectators. She entered no plea and no bail was set.
Her attorney, Carl B. Grant of Orangeburg, said he has met twice with Duley and learned much about what happened. He declined to share details of their conversation but said "there are mitigating circumstances that will explain all of this."
Grant described his client as "very sad" and said she has been praying and speaking with her family pastor, as well.
Unemployed and unable to support her children, Duley reportedly suffocated her sons, Devean C. Duley, 2, and Ja'van T. Duley, 18 months, in an Orangeburg motel following a fight with her mother on Sunday, authorities said. Shaquan Duley then told investigators that the boys had drowned after her car went off a boat landing into the North Edisto River.
Investigators immediately noticed inconsistencies in her story. Duley eventually confessed that she smothered the boys with her hands and then strapped them in their car seats before sending them into the river, Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams has said.
Williams said Duley felt she could be free without the toddlers and "just wanted to get rid of the children."
Duley, the middle child in a family of three children, has spent her whole life in Orangeburg, Grant said. A few years back, she had been working and attending a regional technical college with hopes of becoming a certified nursing assistant. For the past two years, however, she has been jobless and strapped for cash. She, her two sons and her 5-year-old daughter had been living with her mother during that time, Grant said.
All three children have the same father, but he and Duley never married, Grant said.
Williams has said Duley had been upset with her mother's insistence that Duley take a larger role in the children's care. "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," he said during a Tuesday press conference.
Duley's mother, Helene, could not be reached for comment. She and other family members left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. A woman at Duley's Hammock Street home told a Post and Courier reporter to get off the property when he attempted to speak with the family Wednesday.
Duley's sister, Adriane Duley, told The Associated Press she thinks the sheriff's portrayal of events has been fair.
"I don't feel that he's dragging my sister through the mud," she said. "I actually feel that he's speaking fairly compassionately on her part."
Adriane Duley said her family has been overwhelmed by the media attention and cannot even do day-to-day tasks, such as taking out the trash or getting the mail, much less plan two funerals and grieve for their loss.
"I've had enough," she said. "My family needs their privacy."
Shaquan Duley's 5-year-old daughter remains with her grandmother and attended school as usual at Mellichamp Elementary, where she is a kindergartner.
"She hasn't missed a beat," said Greg Carson, a spokesman for Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5.
Carson said the district was making counselors available to the girl and her family, and school officials were "pulling together to help everyone involved."
"We're keeping a very close eye on this," he said. "We want school to be an escape for her."
It remains unclear when, or if, Duley will be released from the county jail. Under state law, a circuit judge must set bail on murder charges, and no date for that hearing has been set.
Grant said Duley's family still supports her and is paying her legal bills. He asked the public to keep an open mind and not pass judgment before all the facts are known.
"There's more to be said, but this is not the place to say it," he said. "I know the world wants to know, 'What happened with Shaquan Duley?' That will come out."
Among those who attended the arraignment was Renuka Patel, who manages Trumps Inn on Five Chop Road, where Duley allegedly killed her children. Patel said she didn't get a good look at Duley that night and wanted to see the person who had brought such tragedy to her property.
Patel said investigators have cleared the motel, but she is not renting out the room where Duley stayed.
"She needs no court, no judge, no jury -- nothing," Patel said. "She needs a big punishment."
Others appeared to be more forgiving.
Grace Simpson is an assistant manager at Dairy-O, a fast-food restaurant on Russell Street where Duley worked several years ago. She recalls Duley as a "quiet, humble and easy- going person" who was always on time for work. She said no one but Duley truly knows what went on in her head the night the two boys were killed and she still needs the community's compassion.
"Now is not the time to stop helping her," Simpson said. "Now is the time she needs to know that somebody out there still cares."
A makeshift memorial continued to grow at the end of the boat ramp on Shillings Bridge Road where Duley reportedly rolled the boys into the river in her car. Flowers and balloons adorned two signs at the ramp's end and more than a dozen stuffed animals were clustered near the water. One stuffed bear held a large heart that read: "I love you."
Funeral services for both boys have been scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Paul Baptist Church in Orangeburg, according to Simmons Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.