(Orangeburg, South Carolina)

Ramona Milhouse awoke to the wail of sirens as the morning mist rose off the murky waters of the Edisto River last Monday. Within minutes, police and rescue workers crowded her backyard overlooking the river.

Milhouse, 81, looked out the window and saw the top of a sedan in the river. She assumed the car was empty. What she saw next still plays vividly in her mind and has shaken the city of 12,000 people where Milhouse has lived all her life.

“They took a little boy out, they had a floating stretcher and they laid him on it and he was limp, but I still didn’t have any idea that he was dead. I thought that he was unconscious,” she recalled. Then she saw another rescue worker with another child.

They cradled the boys against their chests as if they were holding babies — but these babies already had been dead for hours. Only later would Milhouse learn how the bodies of two little boys wound up in the river behind her house.

It began more than 10 miles away, early in the morning on August 16, at the Trumps Inn Motel on the outskirts of town.

Owner Renu Patel said Shaquan Duley appeared “nervous” when she asked for a room. She slipped a $100 bill through a glass window to pay for the night and walked toward Room 31, the farthest room from the office.

Police say Duley suffocated her two boys, Devean and Ja’van Duley, inside Room 31. They say she admitted it to investigators. She is now charged with murder.

Patel never saw the children, but she is horrified by what police say happened behind the maroon motel door. She and other motel workers won’t enter the room.

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