Woman pleads guilty to killing her 2 kids, asks judge for mercy

Duley seated at her plea hearing.
Duley seated at her plea hearing.

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - An Orangeburg woman pleaded guilty Friday morning to suffocating her two small children, strapping them into car seats and then driving the car into the Edisto River.  She will appear for sentencing in late March.

Shaquan Duley, 30, charged with murder in the deaths of her two children, 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley and 2-year-old Devan C. Duley, delivered a guilty plea in an Orangeburg County court.

She is facing 30 years to life without parole.  She will be sentenced the week of March 26.  Her attorney, Carl Grant, asked the judge to give Duley the minimum of 30 years in prison.

He also said she was a cancer survivor who should get credit for 577 days spent in jail.

It was an emotional hearing, with Duley appearing visibly upset.  She began crying shortly after arriving in the courtroom and had to be consoled by Grant.

When given an opportunity to speak, she told the judge, "This is the hardest thing I've gone through in my life [...] I'm not a bad person, I've never been [...] I love my kids and my heart hurts, I miss them so much [...] I just pray you will have mercy on me.  I need my family and they need me."

As many as 15 family members were present for the hearing. Some spoke on her behalf.

Duley's mother was the first to speak, asking the judge to "have mercy on her daughter."

Then the father, Arthur Duley, told the judge "this is truly not my daughter's character [...] she's very loving."

Duley's sister and pastor also asked for mercy from the judge.

The Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office says that Duley confessed to the crimes, which occurred back on Aug. 9, 2010.

Duley told investigators that she placed her hands over the boys' faces and suffocated them at the Trumps Inn in downtown Orangeburg.Investigators say she then placed the two children into her car, strapped them in their car seats and drove it into a river.

When Duley confessed, she told investigators she was unemployed and living with her mother. The two often fought about Duley's parenting, according to investigators.

The night before Ja'van T. Duley Devean C. Duley were placed in the river, the two women had an argument about the children and, Duley told investigators, "she just wanted to be free."

The case received national attention and comparisons to the Susan Smith case where Smith was charged with murdering her two boys in Union County.

Court officials have not released the specific charges that Duley is expected to plead to during Friday's 9 a.m. court appearance.

Back in 2010, witnesses saw the car floating from the boat landing down the river and watched rescue workers pull the bodies of the two little boys from the car. Duley left the car and walked about 3/4 of a mile away, where she contacted someone to report that she had been in an accident, deputies say.

When investigators interviewed Duley after the incident they say she seemed to be concerned. When deputies got to her she had debris on her body to suggest she had been in the water.

Duley's attorney, Carl Grant, says Duley is suffering from major depressive disorder with psychotic features. He said she was diagnosed just hours after allegedly smothering Devean and Javon Duley to death.

Grant said that Duley was an unemployed single mother who was majorly depressed. He said she suffered the loss of two family members, she was failing in school and she fought bone cancer in her sternum three years ago.

In Sept. 2010, attorneys in the case said Duley could face the death penalty. Duley has been lodged at the Orangeburg County Detention Center since her initial arrest.

Copyright 2012 WCSC. All rights reserved. WIS contributed to this report.