"She's tearful, as anybody would be under these circumstances," defense attorney Carl B. Grant said after a brief hearing in Orangeburg. "She's been very sad, very remorseful about all of this stuff, all of the allegations."
About 80 people attended the first court appearance for 29-year-old Shaquan Duley, who was charged Tuesday with two counts of murder.
Duley originally told investigators her sons, ages 2 years and 18 months, drowned after her car plunged into a river. She ultimately confessed to killing the toddlers, they say - not by dumping them in the water but by suffocating them earlier with her own hands.
"She truly felt, 'If I don't have these toddlers, I can be free,"' Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams said Tuesday. "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."
Duley's sister, Adriane Duley, said Wednesday 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."
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."
It will be up to a circuit court judge to decide if Duley will get bail. A date for that hearing has not been set, and Grant said he would wait until then to lay out more details of his client's case.
"There's more to be said, but this is not the place to say it," said Grant, adding he was retained by Duley's family Tuesday and had not yet reviewed her confession to authorities. "I know the world wants to know, 'What happened with Shaquan Duley?' That will come out."
Duley lived with her sons, a 5-year-old daughter and her mother in a rented home along a street filled with boarded-up, abandoned houses in Orangeburg, about 35 miles south of Columbia, South Carolina's capital. Out of work and estranged from the children's father, Duley relied on her mother to support her and her children, Williams said.
The sheriff said Duley told investigators her mother constantly harangued her about her failures as a mother and inability to provide for her family financially.
Leaving her daughter at the house after a night of arguing with her mother Sunday, Duley strapped 2-year-old Devean C. Duley and 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley into their car seats and drove the boys to an Orangeburg motel several miles from where she lived.
Late that night, in a corner room tucked at the back of the rundown, one-story motel complex, Duley suffocated the boys with her hands, Williams said. On Tuesday, red evidence tape still sealed the door to that room.
Distraught and not knowing what to do, Duley strapped the boys into their car seats and drove to a boat ramp some 10 miles away, investigators said. They said Duley rolled her car into the water, watching as it sank into the slow-moving current, then took off on foot.
Without a cell phone, Duley walked some distance down a country road, flagging down a passing motorist to call the Highway Patrol at 6:15 a.m. Monday.
A man on the tape of a 911 call released by the Orangeburg Emergency Medical Services on Wednesday tries to give an operator the car's location and information about the children. He can be heard asking someone else at the scene for specifics during the call.
When the operator asks "Do you happen to know how old these children are?" the man asks someone at the scene: "How old they are honey?" He then tells the operator: "One and two."
When asked whether the woman driving was also trapped in the car, the man responds, "No, she got out some kind of way."
The children were still strapped in their child seats when divers found them and recovered their bodies about 45 minutes after being called to the scene.
Coroner Samuetta Marshall said Tuesday the older boy had bruises that suggested he had been in a struggle.
Funeral services for both boys have been scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Paul Baptist Church in Orangeburg, officials with Simmons Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements, said Wednesday.
Associated Press Writers Jack Jones and Page Ivey in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.