CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County Coroner’s Office released a statement Thursday regarding the autopsy results for 5-month-old Grace Carlson Santa Cruz, deemed “Baby Grace” by the community that came together to search for and honor the infant in early November.
According to Deputy Coroner Darris G Fowler, the cause of death for Baby Grace is drowning, and is ruled a homicide. The autopsy was performed at the Medical University of South Carolina, with official results being released Thursday.
The body of 5-month-old Baby Grace was discovered in the Socastee creek off of Shem Creek Circle November 5, 2015, according to Horry County Police.
Police report that search crews, who had been canvassing the creek and wooded area for nearly 48 hours before finding the baby girl, discovered the infant’s body in the water around 3:45 p.m.
“It’s with a heavy heart this evening that I have to inform you that at about 3:45 today we were able to locate body of Baby Grace,” states Chief Saundra Rhodes. “Divers from the Department of Natural Resources along with Public Works were able to locate her.”
Chief Rhodes was visibly upset at the November press conference and delivered the news of Baby Grace in a solemn, reserved tone.
Lt. Raul Denis with Horry County Police adds that Baby Grace was discovered about 50 yards from where her mother entered the creek Tuesday morning.
“Please know that we did everything we could to try to find this baby and although she is deceased, I believe that all of us have a sense of peace in knowing that we can lay her to rest properly,” Rhodes expressed in the Thursday afternoon press conference.
Sarah Lane Toney, Baby Grace’s mother, is charged in the infant’s death.
According to Lt. Raul Denis, a homeowner reported finding a woman, later identified as Toney, on her back porch the morning of November 3. The initial call to officers was in reference to a suspicious person around 10:30 a.m. that morning.
Toney then reportedly told the homeowner she went into the creek with her child, Lt. Denis adds. Investigators revealed that Toney lost her baby in a rushing creek behind a home on Simms Drive. Toney is charged with homicide by child abuse.