TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – On Thursday, witnesses watched as a woman allegedly waded into the Hillsborough River and threw her 4-year-old daughter into the gator-infested water. The mother, 26-year-old Shakayla Denson, of Tampa, was charged with first-degree felony murder, aggravated child abuse and grand theft auto.
Here is how the case unfolded, according to police.
Denson allegedly steals a 2007 Nissan Altima from a car lot on 40th Street in Tampa.
Witnesses report seeing Denson forcefully push her 4-year-old daughter, Je’Hyrah Daniels into the backseat of the car.
One witness is hit by the car as she tries to intervene, but she is not injured, police said.
Witnesses report seeing Denson exit the stolen car in the area of N. Rome Ave. and W. Aileen Street.
Denson allegedly pulls her daughter out of the car and marches toward the Hillsborough River, dragging the girl by the arm. Witnesses say both the child and the mother can be heard screaming.
Denson grabs the child by both arms and holds her close to her chest. She wades into the water until it comes up to the top of her shoulders. She lets go of the child, then turns around and heads back toward the shore, witnesses say.
Denson is spotted walking on Rome Ave., then in the 2300 block of Oregon Ave where she is detained by police.
Police begin searching the river before a dive team arrives to begin their search efforts.
Divers recover the child’s unconscious body. She is delivered to the Tampa Fire Rescue and rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Je’Hyrah is pronounced deceased.
Witnesses identify Denson as the person who dragged the child into the water.
Denson is charged with first-degree felony murder, aggravated child abuse and grand theft auto.