CHARLESTON, S.C. --- A state judge ruled Friday that a woman accused of leaving her children to die in a sweltering car and then stuffing their bodies in trash bags may be released on bond after a year in jail.
Judge Thomas Cooper set a $15,000 surety bond for Sametta Heyward, 28, who faces two counts of homicide by child abuse in the deaths a year ago this week of her 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.
"Obviously this is a tragic case and Ms. Heyward bears a dual burden in regard to the loss of her two children and the accusation of guilt," the judge said.
But Judge Cooper said Ms. Heyward did not present a flight risk or a danger to others.
He said Ms. Heyward would be placed under house arrest and could leave home only for mental health treatment, to consult with her lawyer, go to church and to work if she gets a job. He said she also could visit the graves of her children to begin to deal with the loss.
Ms. Heyward was released from jail Friday evening, according to an automated system that checks inmates' status. Her lawyer could not immediately be reached.
When police found Ms. Heyward at her Hanahan, S.C., apartment last July, she was wailing "Oh, my babies" and told police she left her children in a hot car after a baby sitter canceled.
The day before, the single mother went to work at a county-run group home, leaving the toddlers in the car with battery-powered fans, food and drinks. The temperature could have reached 130 degrees in the car, authorities said. Officials say when she got home, Ms. Heyward washed and dressed the toddler's bodies, put them in trash bags and stuffed them under a sink in the apartment.
During the hearing, about 50 people stood up when defense attorney Andy Savage asked how many people supported Ms. Heyward.
Calling it a "terrifically tragic situation," Mr. Savage said Ms. Heyward had no previous criminal record and "she does have a strong network of support."
He said there was no danger of flight because she has no driver's license, no job and no connections outside the area.
Assistant Solicitor Elizabeth Gordon argued bond should be substantial. She said when Ms. Heyward was first questioned after the deaths, she told police the children were with their father in Maryland.
"If there are 50 people here today there are obviously people who could have helped her" the day the baby sitter canceled, she said.
She said the state would be ready to go to trial late this year.
Mr. Savage told the judge he sought bail earlier, but a hearing scheduled for late last year was canceled because of his client's poor mental health.