A Florida mother faces murder charges after throwing her 4-year-old daughter into a river.
Shakayla Denson was charged with first-degree felony murder, aggravated child abuse and grand theft auto after she allegedly stole a car, drove it to a river, and threw her daughter in, according to a statement by Tampa Police.
Tampa police divers found little Je’Hyrah Daniels unconscious in the Hillsborough River. She was rushed to a hospital but doctors were unable to save her.
"It's a completely tragic event," Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said at the scene, according to USA Today.
"We’re still piecing the whole thing together."
Denson is accused of stealing a grey Nissan Altima from a nearby repair shop and driving it to the river. Witnesses say they saw Denson shove the young child into the backseat of the stolen car, and when one tried to intervene they were slightly struck by the vehicle as Denson drove away, police said.
After taking the car, the 26-year-old mother parked and witnesses say she waded into the middle of the river before “tossing” her baby into the water, according to the police. Both the child and her mother were reported to be screaming as they entered the water, police said.
Multiple people called police to report Denson, and she was soon apprehended walking nearby.
"It was weird," Osama Jamil, an employee of a local business told the Tampa Bay Times, saying he saw Denson acting strange around the time of the alleged crime. "She was back there, washing her face. She was counting out loud, 19, 20, 21. I went back there to see if she was all right. She didn’t look right."
When Jamil asked her if she was OK, Denson stopped what she was doing and ran away, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Other witnesses said Denson was wearing only a bra and black leggings, and she kept jiggling the handles of people’s cars attempting to get in, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"It’s disgusting," said Romano Muniz, who watched police attempt to rescue Je’Hyrah.
Police divers found the body approximately 75 feet from the shore of the river. The official cause of death will be determined after an official autopsy.
“It was quite frankly tragic, chaotic and downright unbelievable,” Dugan said in a press conference on Friday.
Police are continuing to investigate the potential motive. It is unclear whether Denson was under the influence of any substances.
She is being held without bond at the Hillsborough County Jail.
[Photo: Tampa Police Department]
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