South Carolina mom charged during search for missing baby
SUSANNE M. SCHAFER
Nov. 04, 2015
SOCASTEE, S.C. (AP) — Search crews spent a second day unsuccessfully looking through a rain-swollen creek and swamp in South Carolina for a 5-month-old girl after the mother said she put the baby in brown, swirling waters.
Sarah Lane Toney was charged with unlawful conduct toward a child on Wednesday, but searches held out hope the baby might still be found safe because right now the only information investigators have about the child is what the mother has told them, Horry County Police spokesman Lt. Raul Dennis said.
The search for the baby began Tuesday morning when Toney walked on a porch and told a woman she had put her daughter Grace, into the water, Dennis said. The home was some 500 yards across the swamp and the 6- to 8-foot-deep creek from Toney's house near Myrtle Beach.
"It's basically a drainage creek and marshland back there," Dennis said, gesturing toward the thick strand of trees, hiding the creek that flows into the nearby Intracoastal Waterway.
Police took Toney, 33, into custody in a probation violation after the woman called police. Authorities released few details about the unlawful conduct charge. It wasn't known if Toney had a lawyer, and she remained in jail awaiting a bond hearing.
The search ended around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday as the sun set. Crews can only look for the baby 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, Dennis said.
Crews are using special sonar equipment, along with boats, canoes and personal watercraft and are concentrating on a 1 square mile area, Dennis said.
One officer carried a pole Wednesday that she used to poke into rain-swollen drainage ditches.
The Coast Guard will join the search Thursday when it starts again at daybreak, as well as a helicopter from the State Law Enforcement Division, which will look for objects floating in the water, Dennis said.
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.
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.
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, but 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.
Associated Press Writer Meg Kinnard contributed to this report from Columbia.