TAMPA, FL — Tampa police have charged a mother with first-degree murder after she allegedly dragged her four-year-old daughter into the Hillsborough River, where the child drowned.
Shakayla Denson, 26, has been arrested and charged with first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of Je’Hyrah Daniels.
Police say Denson stole a Nissan Altima from an auto-repair shop Thursday afternoon and then “forcefully pushed Je’Hyrah into the back seat” before parking near a bridge — and then dragging her child into the water.
“Witnesses say she waded into the Hillsborough River with her child. Roughly halfway across the river, she tossed the child and began wading out,” police said in a news release.
Tampa Police Chief Dugan called the situation “tragic, chaotic, and just all-around unbelievable at the same time” at a press conference. He explained that Tampa police officers responded to N. Rome Avenue and W. Aileen Street at 4:06 P.M. after receiving reports of a woman who drowned a child in the river just north of the Columbus Drive bridge.
Multiple witnesses had spotted Denson struggling with her daughter. One attempted to stop Denson from leaving when she exited the river, but was struck by the Altima as Denson pulled away.
The dive team also responded to the scene, where they pulled Je’Hyrah from the water about 75 feet from shore at around 4:30 P.M. Emergency services rushed her to a nearby hospital, where the child was tragically pronounced dead.
Vicki Walker, whose building faces the river, told ABC Action News that she was shocked to see a woman walking out of the water. Walker took a photo of Denson in the river, which was published by the news channel.
An autopsy will determine the child’s official cause of death.
Denson was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail on charges of murder, aggravated child abuse, and grand theft auto, records show. She is currently being held without bond and is due back in court on August 8.
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Main photo: Shakayla Denson [Tampa Sheriff’s Department]