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South Carolina mother gets 35 years for killing toddlers

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A South Carolina mother will spend 35 years in prison for suffocating her two toddlers and leaving their bodies in car seats inside a vehicle she dumped in a river, a judge ruled on Friday.

Shaquan Duley, 30, had faced 30 years to life in prison on murder charges in the deaths of her sons, 2-year-old Devean and 18-month-old Ja'van, in August 2010.

Police said Duley killed them by putting her hand over their mouths, then placed the bodies in a car that she pushed over an embankment into the Edisto River. She pleaded guilty to the murders two weeks ago.

She had no plea agreement with prosecutors in Orangeburg, South Carolina, leaving her fate up to Judge Ed Dickson.

"The judge took into consideration the fact that she accepted responsibility for her actions," prosecutor David Pascoe said.

The case received national attention. Duley, unemployed and mentally ill according to doctors, had argued with her mother about Duley's ability to care for her children the day she killed them, police said.

Oprah Winfrey traveled to South Carolina this month to interview Duley, and the interview will air on Sunday on the OWN television network.

Police at the time of the crime said Duley, a single mother, confessed after initially lying about the deaths and trying to make them look accidental.

Pascoe said it appeared that Duley had snapped, with no evidence suggesting she planned to kill her children.

The father of Duley's children was never located, the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office said. Duley also has a daughter who is in the custody of Duley's mother, 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. Smith is serving a life prison term.

(Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)

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