ORANGEBURG, SC (WCSC/WIS) - Shaquan Duley's 2-year-old tried to fight off his mother's suffocating hands Monday morning, said the Orangeburg County Coroner.
According to Coroner Samuetta Marshall, there were signs of a struggle and defensive wounds on Duley's oldest child. She did confirm that both children died from asphyxiation, which conforms to the mother's story told to investigators.
Marshall said the exact time of death has not been pinpointed and because they were underwater, it makes that determination harder.
Duley suffocated her two small children at a motel on Highway 301 then strapped the bodies into car seats and drove her car into the Edisto River, she told Orangeburg County deputies Monday night.
"There was an emotional rush, and the opportunity presented itself, and she reacted to whatever condition presented itself," said Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams in a press conference Tuesday morning.
The Orangeburg County Sheriff's Department will serve two warrants for murder against 29-year-old Duley for the murder of her two children, identified Monday as 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley and 2-year-old Devean C. Duley.
The toddlers were found still strapped in their child restraint seats as investigators pulled the car out of the river before 7 a.m. Monday.
Duley told investigators she was unemployed and had no way of taking care of her children. She lived with her mother who allegedly talked with Duley about being a more reliable mother and said she wasn't providing capably for the two now-deceased children.
Williams added that the night before the children were driven into the river, there was a dispute between Duley and her mother. Williams believes this incident was in direct response to the fight.
"I believe that she was just angry, upset and for some reason found the Shillings Bridge Road and the boat ramp," Williams said. "She was trying to find a way to discard the bodies."
Duley also has a 5-year-old girl who is now with the grandmother. Authorities believe Duley's third child was spared because the grandmother served as the primary caregiver for her.
Deputies have not been able to contact the father. Duley and children had no relationship with him, authorities said.
Williams said she was emotionally distraught, but wouldn't say whether she was suffering from depression.
"She wasn't poised; she was emotionally distraught, talking with investigators she would do rolls, one moment emotional and one moment not," Williams said in the press conference. "She had really gone full throttle in emotions."
While Duley was clearly under duress as rescue crews retrieved her dead children and investigators dug deeper into her story, the circumstances of the case clearly wore on the minds of Williams and his investigators.
"Here's two little innocent folk who did not hard to anyone," he said. "It's touching. THis is a large Southern county, but a close county."
Williams didn't mince words with CNN's Nancy Grace Monday night as he told the anchor something doesn't seem right about the death of two toddlers who were found submerged in a car in the Edisto River.
As the investigation was just starting Monday, Williams said the case "has a stench of foul play" as investigators found the car's gear in neutral, no skid marks at the scene, and the mother's clothing was dry.
A rescue diver had to break through a car window to recover the bodies of the two children.
"Children's cases are always so heart-wrenching. It's just such an unfortunate situation. So many lives have been affected, but things do happen," Marshall said.