SOCASTEE — Searchers found the body of a baby in a swollen, murky South Carolina creek on Thursday, two days after a mother said she put the 5-month-old girl into the water, according to police.
Divers found the body about 3:45 p.m., Horry County police Chief Saundra Rhodes said at a news conference. Later, more than a dozen rescuers gathered in a circle, praying. Some of them wiped their eyes.
“All of us have a sense of peace knowing we can lay her to rest properly,” Rhodes said.
On Tuesday, the girl’s mother, Sarah Lane Toney, went to a home about 500 yards across the creek and swamp from her house near Myrtle Beach and told a woman she had put her baby into the creek, police said.
Toney was taken into custody and charged with unlawful conduct toward a child. A judge denied bond Thursday before the body was found.
Toney asked officers at her bond hearing whether her baby had been found, then told the judge she should be released from jail because she didn’t plan to leave the area and needed to take care of her older daughter, who was turned over to her father after she reported her baby disappeared in the water.
“I went into the water with her, and I was unable to hold on to her,” Toney said at her bond hearing. “I didn’t intentionally put her in any danger. I was going with her, and I wasn’t able to hold on to her when the water sucked me in.”
The baby was found less than 75 yards from her home, Rhodes said. The removal of a large tree helped divers find the body, the police chief said. An autopsy has been ordered to determine how the girl died.
Rhodes said her officers will consult with prosecutors, but she expects Toney to face charges in her daughter’s death.
Toney, who also has gone by the last name of Carlson, has an arrest record in South Carolina that dates back to 2008, according to records obtained Wednesday from the State Law Enforcement Division. They included two arrests on criminal domestic violence charges.
The search for the baby, named Grace, could only go on in daylight because the current is so swift and the murky, brown water in the swamp and creek are full of reeds, trees and other vegetation, Horry County Police spokesman Lt. Raul Denis said. Searchers used special sonar equipment, along with boats, canoes and personal watercraft to look in the 6- to 8-foot depths.
Neighbors said Toney kept mostly to herself. Kayle White said she saw Toney pushing the baby around the neighborhood in a stroller, but they never spoke.
“She’d walk up and down the street, but I’ve never seen that baby up close,” White said.