Bond denied for mother of missing 'Baby Grace,' search continues

Bond denied for mother of missing 'Baby Grace,' search continues
Sarah Lane Toney. Source: HCPD
Sarah Lane Toney. Source: HCPD
(Source: Horry County PD)
(Source: Horry County PD)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Bond was denied for the 33-year-old mother of missing 'Baby Grace' at a hearing Thursday morning while officials continue to search a Socastee creek for the missing 5-month-old girl.

Sarah Lane Toney was denied bond on the charge for which she was arrested Wednesday: unlawful conduct toward a child. She will remain incarcerated at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. During the hearing, Toney said she went into the water with the baby, and couldn't hold on to her when the current sucked her in. She said that she did not intentionally put Baby Grace in danger. She did not explain why she was in the creek in the first place.

"I went in the water with her and I was unable to hold her," Toney said during the hearing. "I didn't intentionally put her in anything - any danger. I was going with her and I wasn't able to hold on to her when the water sucked me in."

On the day of the incident, Toney reportedly told a neighbor that she threw the infant into the creek in Socastee, according to police.

The solicitor and prosecutor asked the judge to deny bond based on Toney's criminal history, specifically a domestic violence charge, and her record from Washington state. Toney said she does not have any money, so she is not a flight risk. Bond was denied based on her criminal history, and the on-going investigation into the disappearance of Toney's child.

"I have no where to go, I'm not going to go anywhere, I have no money, I have no way to go anywhere. I'd like to be with my other child until we find Grace," Toney said during the hearing.

The search continues Thursday

Divers with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and several other agencies stopped searching at dark Wednesday for the missing five-month-old girl whose mother claimed she threw her daughter in a creek in Socastee Tuesday morning. The Horry County Police Department tweeted Thursday morning that they resumed the search for Baby Grace, and informed residents nearby that search parties are moving about. Lt. Denis said that they have expanded their search area, and are now looking in ditches and other areas in the neighborhood. They are also able to search deeper into the woods, as the creek waters have receded about four feet since Tuesday. He said they are hoping to bring out SLED helicopters to assist with the search.

Horry County Police asked that onlookers and prospective volunteers to "stay put for now" and monitor the situation on social media. "If we determine that we volunteers are needed we will post it on our social media sites along with instructions as how to help," a post on the Horry County Police Facebook page states.

The mother of the 5-month-old infant who was lost in rushing creek waters behind their Socastee home Tuesday, was arrested on an outstanding, unrelated warrant, according to police. Officers said 33-year-old Sarah Lane Toney, of Myrtle Beach, was being held at J Reuben Long Detention Center.

On Wednesday, Lt. Denis said Toney is being charged with unlawful conduct toward a child. Detectives with HCPD have secured an arrest warrant for Toney and say the warrant will be served by the end of the day on Wednesday.

Related Link: Missing infant's mother has criminal past

Multiple agencies search the area on Wednesday

Two SCDNR boats headed downstream Wednesday morning along with the dive team, according to officials. By about 9:30 a.m., more crews showed up for the search, and some volunteers were seen in the area, wondering how they can help find Baby Grace.

Crews were working in the same area as they did Tuesday, according to Lt. Raul Denis, in a location about one mile to one half-mile up and down the creek and in the woods. Other organizations assisting in the search include the CUE Center for Missing Persons, the State Law Enforcement Division, as well as officials from Darlington County and a K-9 tracking team from Hartsville Police. Lt. Denis said K-9s did pick up a scent in one area of the creek Wednesday afternoon and divers are focusing on that area but crews have not found Baby Grace.

Coastal Carolina University also sent in people with high-tech sonar equipment, which can usually find items, but may have difficult locating a small baby. Lt. Denis said they're patrolling a small concentrated area, and hope to be able to resolve this by Wednesday. The water level in the creek has dropped about one foot since Tuesday from its previous level of 6 to 7 feet, Lt. Denis said. However, the creek is usually only a foot or two deep.

Search efforts come up empty on Tuesday

Toney was found on a back porch by another homeowner, according to  Horry County Police. Toney told the homeowner that she went into the river with the baby, later identified by police as Baby Grace, but she didn't have a baby with her at the time. Horry County Police detectives, Beach Patrol officers, Horry County Fire Rescue and South Carolina DNR, mobilized and searched the creeks, ponds, waterways, and woods in the area.

Rescue teams stopped searching for the five-month-old in the creek at dark Tuesday, according to police. Lt. Raul Denis of the Horry County Police Department, as a safety precaution for the searchers.

Neighbor says Toney told them she threw her baby in a creek

Around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Toney, claiming to be the infant's mother, came out of the water, knocked on the door of a home on Shem Creek Circle, and told the person living there that she had thrown the infant girl into the creek behind a house on Simms Drive, according to Lt. Denis. When police arrived at Simms Drive to investigate, Toney was home and was taken into custody. Lt. Denis confirmed on Wednesday that Toney's 9-year-old daughter was released to her biological father.

A K-9 team tried to trace the woman's path to determine if she really was in the area of the creek, which is about a quarter-mile from the home on Simms Drive.

Fire rescue responders, beach patrol officers, boats, jet skis, and canoes were in creeks all the way down to Intracoastal Waterway trying to find Baby Grace and investigate.

One neighbor watched the scene unfold from her porch. She said she never had a conversation with Toney, but she had seen her with the baby.

"We see her maybe once and a while, walking up and down the street with her," said the neighbor. "Not really sure what's going on, but I am a little shocked."

Lt. Denis said Toney is in custody while the investigation is going on. Police also said the mother was transported to a Conway hospital to get medical clearance.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the HCPD Tip Line at 843-915-8477 (843-915-TIPS).

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