CHARLESTON — A South Carolina woman who said she lost her 5-month-old daughter in a rain-swollen creek told a police officer she entered the water because she was “trying to find God,” according to a report released Monday.
Charges against 33-year-old Sarah Lane Toney were upgraded Monday to murder/homicide by child abuse in the death of her daughter, according to court documents. Toney had been charged last week with unlawful conduct toward a child.
The body of her baby, Grace Carlson Santa Cruz, was found Thursday following a two-day search of a creek near the woman’s home in Socastee, South Carolina, not far from Myrtle Beach.
Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler told the AP on Monday that an autopsy last week determined the death was a homicide but the specific cause of death won’t be known until toxicology tests are completed, which could take several weeks.
According to the police report, an officer was dispatched Nov. 3 to the home of Toney’s neighbor, who said Toney had appeared at her door soaking wet and said she had carried the child into the creek and had come out without her.
Toney told the officer “the water was moving fast and she slipped multiple times and on the last time she lost control” of the child, the report said.
When asked why she entered the water, Toney “initially stated that she (the child) was crying.” But moments later she stated “that it was because she was trying to find God,” the report said.
The officer’s report added that when he interviewed Toney after the incident he found her “to be in emotional distress ...,” the report said.
Toney said at a bond hearing last week on the unlawful conduct charge that she didn’t intend to put the child in danger but wasn’t able to hold onto her in the water.
She was to appear later Monday for a bond hearing on the homicide by child abuse charge which carries a sentence of from 20 years to life in prison.
Authorities said that Toney does not yet have an attorney and has asked to have a public defender appointed to represent her.
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 State Law Enforcement Division records.
She was arrested twice for criminal domestic violence, receiving a one-year probationary sentence in 2010. Toney also has several arrests for shoplifting and traffic-related infractions like driving under the influence and hit and run. State police records don’t show jail sentences on those offenses.
Toney is currently on probation from several charges including shoplifting and lying to authorities, according to state records.