(Aug. 18) -- A South Carolina mother accused of killing her two young sons was a friendly person who took good care of her kids, a family member and acquaintance said. But police say Shaquan Duley "just wanted to be free."
Her attorney says don't rush to judgment.
On Monday, Duley, 29, told police she had been involved in an accident near a rural boat landing and her car had plummeted into the North Edisto River with her two sons inside. Divers later recovered the bodies of 2-year-old Devean Duley and 18-month-old Ja'van Duley from the submerged car.
Moms Accused of Murder
After hours of questioning by investigators, Duley admitted she staged the accident, police said. She allegedly told police she had suffocated the children before driving the car into the river. In a chilling development, the medical examiner revealed Tuesday that the older boy's body had bruises, suggesting he had struggled with his killer.
Duley's cousin, Denise Duley, expressed shock at the boys' deaths and at their mother's arrest on murder charges. She said she did not see any warning signs.
"I don't know what goes on inside her home, but as far as from the outside, it looked like she took care of her kids," Duley told WOLO-TV of Columbia.
Acquaintances expressed similar feelings.
"She was such a good-natured person, very friendly, but quiet," Grace Simpson, a former co-worker at a Dairy-O fast-food restaurant, told CNN. "[She was] never disciplined. Never in trouble with our boss."
"Whatever compelled Shaquan to do what she did ... Lord, please be with her," Simpson said. "I will not judge her. But God, be kind to her."
Duley's attorney, Carl B. Grant, told AOL News that people shouldn't jump to conclusions.
"I've defended clients before who confessed to crimes and jurors still found them not guilty," he said. "Naturally, we're in the early stages of the case, and it is my immediate mission for Ms. Duley to recapture the presumption of innocence that seems to be, at this point, elusive ... and do all we can at this point to preserve her right to a fair trial."
Duley made her first appearance in an Orangeburg County courtroom this afternoon, during which a judge explained her rights to her. Duley said little during the brief proceeding. When the asked by the judge how she was doing, Duley replied, "Not OK, sir."
A bond hearing has not yet been scheduled.
"We expect the bond hearing to take place ... in the next 10 days," Grant said..
Investigators said Duley was broke, out of work and estranged from the toddlers' father. She and her children -- the two boys and a 5-year-old daughter -- were living with her mother in Orangeburg, about 35 miles south of Columbia. The daughter had been left with her grandmother.
Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams told reporters Tuesday that Duley was angry with her own mother, who apparently criticized the way she was caring for her children. The two women had a heated argument the night before the children were killed.
"She truly felt, 'If I don't have these toddlers, I can be free,'" Williams said. "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 speculated that, as a result, she snapped and decided to "get rid of her children."
The Duley case is eerily reminiscent of that of another South Carolina woman, Susan Smith. In October 1994, Smith told police that she had been carjacked by a black man who drove off with her two children in the back seat. Police later determined that she had rolled her car into a lake with the two little boys strapped into their car seats. Smith is serving a life sentence for their murders.
Prosecutors said Smith, a troubled young white woman who had been molested as a teen by her stepfather, got rid of her children so that she could have a relationship with an affluent man who had no interest in her kids. Her sons were drowned in John D. Long Lake -- roughly 100 miles from where Duley's children died.
Duley has no previous criminal record and was not taking any medication. Police said they are considering postpartum depression as a possible factor in the killings.
Grant won't comment on possible defense strategies.
"I would be remiss in my professional obligations as to what the strategies of the defense would be at this point," Grant said. "I'll tell you this, we will protect her rights in every way. ... Whatever defenses are plausible or supported by the evidence and the facts and circumstances, we will raise them and we will raise them with vigor."
Editors' Note: This story was revised on Aug. 18 to remove opinions from a criminal profiler about post-partum depression.