By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - An unemployed and mentally ill South Carolina mother pleaded guilty on Friday to suffocating her two toddlers and then leaving their bodies in car seats in a vehicle she dumped in a river.
Shaquan Duley, 30, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder. She faces 30 years to life on each count when she is sentenced later this month, prosecutor David Pascoe said.
"She accepted criminal responsibility for what she did," Pascoe said.
The case was similar to that of another South Carolina mother, Susan Smith, who drowned her two sons, 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alexander in a vehicle in 1994.
Duley suffocated her two children, 2-year-old Devean and 18-month-old Ja'van, in August 2010. Police said she snuffed out their lives by putting her hand over their mouths, then placed the bodies in a car that she pushed over an embankment into the Edisto River.
Police at the time said she confessed after initially lying about the deaths and trying to make them look accidental.
"She was a mother that was unemployed. She had no means of taking care of her children," then-Sheriff Larry Williams said in 2010.
"The responsibility of being a mom was a bit much for her. She was living with her mother. I believe she was fed up with her mother telling her that she couldn't take care of the children, or she wasn't taking care of the children. She just wanted to be free." Emotional testimony came from family members supporting Duley, a single mom who said she had been depressed.
"She snapped on August 15," Pascoe said on Friday. "There was no evidence that she had been planning this out."
A state-appointed forensic psychiatrist found last summer that Duley suffered from mental illness but that she knew right from wrong and knew what she was doing when she killed her children, Pascoe said.
The father of Duley's children was never located, the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office said.
(Editing By Tom Brown and Cynthia Johnston)