S.C. mother pleads guilty to murder of 2 sons

Posted at 10:26 AM, Mar 17, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-17 10:45:53-04

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) – A South Carolina mother on Friday asked for forgiveness and mercy, in the eyes of God and a judge, after pleading guilty to two counts of murder for killing her two toddler sons — saying she hoped to someday reunite with them, “even though it’s not on this side of eternity.”

“I know what happened is … unusual and it’s not my character,” a tearful Shaquan Duley said in an Orangeburg court after entering her plea. “I don’t know what went on with me.”

Authorities have said that on the night of August 15, 2010, Duley suffocated 2-year-old Devean Duley and 1-year-old Ja’Van Duley by putting her hand over their mouths in a room at the Trumps Inn just outside Orangeburg.

She then put their bodies into their car seats, drove across town to a boat ramp, put the Chrysler sedan in neutral and sent it into the North Edisto River, they said.

Duley’s then-5-year-old daughter was not with them at the time.

Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams said soon after the incident that authorities believed the deaths were “a direct response” to an argument between Duley and her mother, who lived together, the night before.

“I believe she was just fed up with her mother telling her she couldn’t take care of the children,” Williams said.

The next month, Helen Duley described her daughter as “a very loving and kindhearted person” and a “good mother” during a court hearing to consider whether the suspect should be granted the opportunity to post bail.

“My daughter has never been in trouble with the law until now,” Helen Duley said.

Speaking in court Friday, Duley did not delve much into her rationale beyond saying, “I know I was depressed for a long time, and I hurt for a long time.”

She also did not deny any facts as presented by law enforcement, apologizing to her family and “to this community, to this court (and) to this state for all that has happened.”

But, pointing to her lack of a criminal record, she insisted, “I’m not a bad person at all” and “I have a good heart.”

Duley also said she prays every day for the opportunity “to keep (her sons’) memory alive by sharing the love that I have for them.”

“My heart hurts every single day because I do not have them anymore,” she said, addressing Judge Ed Dickson. “I miss them so much, your honor, and there’s nothing that can fill that void.”

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe pointed out that there was no plea deal, as Duley pleaded guilty to the charges filed.

“I wanted to make sure Shaquan Duley was held accountable for the horrific death of these two boys and that she pled to murder as she was charged,” Pascoe said. “I was not willing to plead this case to any charge that carried less than 30 years in prison.”

Duley is expected to be sentenced during the week of March 26, according to Pascoe.

The judge could sentence her to 30 years — assuming the two sentences are served concurrently — to a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Pascoe said. Even with a less stringent sentence, Duley would get no credit for good behavior or a chance at early release on parole.

A month after her arrest, Duley’s lawyer, Carl Grant, argued then that his client was suffering from mental illness.

He called her “a very quiet, reserved, caring and fun-loving person who … was going through a very tough time,” citing the deaths of two family members, a bout with bone cancer and the challenge of being a single mother.

InSession’s Jessica Thill contributed to this report.

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