A 29-year-old mother told police she suffocated her two young sons before strapping them into their car seats and driving them into a river.
The case, while horribly tragic, is not unusual. .
The majority of crimes against children are committed by their own family or friends.
Murder charges are being brought against a woman who admitted she suffocated two of her children. The two boys, ages one and two, were found in a car submerged in a river in South Carolina on Monday, Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams said in a news conference Tuesday.
Shaquan Duley, 29, told police she smothered her toddler sons at a motel by placing her hands over their mouths. Williams said the children were dead before Duley put them in their car seats and drove them to the river.
"She just wanted to get rid of the children, as sad as it may be," Williams told reporters.
The case is sensational and horribly tragic. But how rare is it?
The answer depends on what specific part of Duley's crime you're talking about. The fact that the children were murdered by someone they knew and trusted is not unusual at all. Because of alarmist news coverage, the general public often believes that the greatest threat to children is from strangers.
In fact, the vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by convicted sex offenders or strangers, but instead by the victim's own family, church clergy, and family friends.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, "Based on what we know about those who harm children, the danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a stranger."
A 2000 report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs reported that over three-quarters of kidnappings were committed by family members or acquaintances of the child. The study also found that children abducted by strangers were harmed less frequently than those taken by acquaintances.
In fact, children are in far more danger of being abused, kidnapped or killed by their parents than any stranger on the street.
Nor is Duley's gender particularly unusual. Depending on which study you look at, mothers kill children at least as often as fathers do.
According to a report titled "Homicide Trends in the U.S.," issued by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all children under age five murdered between 1976 and 2005, 31 percent were killed by fathers and 29 percent were killed by mothers.
A 2000 study conducted by Marlene Dalley, Ph.D., analyzed trends in Canadian child murders and concluded that "Both mothers and fathers kill infant children at the same frequency, though when all (victim) age groups are considered mothers and step-mothers killed more children than fathers and step-fathers."
A 2003 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that of 34 North Carolina newborns who were killed or left to die, at least 85 percent of them were killed by their mothers (usually through strangulation or drowning).
In fact, the risk of a person being murdered -- probably by his or her mother -- is 10 times higher during the first day of life than at any other time. This of course flies in the face of the public's perception of women as protective nurturers, but the fact is that women murder children far more often than people realize.