Mother pleads guilty in death of 5-month-old daughter ‘Baby Grace’

Mother pleads guilty in death of 5-month-old daughter ‘Baby Grace’
Toney appears in court with her attorney. (Source: WMBF News)
Toney appears in court with her attorney. (Source: WMBF News)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The mother who was arrested for homicide by child abuse after she allegedly released her child in rushing creek water in Socastee in 2015 pleaded guilty at a hearing in Horry County Court Wednesday afternoon.

Sarah Toney, 34, was arrested in November of 2015 days after her 5-month-old daughter, now known as "Baby Grace," went missing from Toney's Socastee home. Baby Grace was found by rescue drivers in a creek behind Toney's home.

Toney was arrested and later charged with homicide by child abuse and unlawful neglect of a child, according to court records. She has remained in custody at J. Reuben Long Detention Center since that time.

Toney pleaded guilty to homicide by child abuse at the hearing. After testimony from a forensic psychologist and a presentation by the state reviewing the case, the judge sentenced Toney to 27 years in prison. Upon receiving the sentence, Toney cried out. The judge also told her she would be put on a registry of child abuse.

During the hearing, Dr. Emily Gottfried, a forensic psychologist from MUSC, testified that she evaluated Toney's mental status, and determined that she was competent to stand trial, criminally responsible, and had the capacity to conform to law.

Dr. Gottfried also testified that a urine analysis indicated Toney was under the influence of methamphetamines and opioids, and that Toney admitted to using these drugs about three days before the incident. Dr. Gottfried said the psychotic symptoms she was experiencing were likely substance-induced. She diagnosed Toney with three substance abuse disorders.

Dr. Gottfried said she didn't think Toney had bipolar disorder, but anger and rage symptoms did align with borderline personality disorder.

The judge ruled that Toney had the capacity to know right from wrong, and was criminally responsible for the offenses.

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