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Mom accused of drowning daughter had been cleared of abuse

August 3, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A woman accused of drowning her screaming 4-year-old daughter in a Florida river had been cleared this week by sheriff’s child abuse investigators.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Friday saying its child protection unit had started an investigation of Shakayla Denson, 26, on June 19 about her treatment of her daughter, Je’Hyrah Daniels. The investigation was closed Tuesday after no evidence of maltreatment, abuse or neglect was found, the agency said.

The statement said supervisors had reviewed the case after the girl’s death Thursday in Tampa and agreed with the investigators’ conclusion. The sheriff’s office said no further details would be released.

Denson was ordered Friday held without bail on a first-degree murder charge. Video shows Denson stood silently during the 90-second court hearing, looking down or to her left and rarely blinking. Her arms and legs were shackled and she was dressed in a blue one-piece uniform worn by inmates who are a suicide threat.

Tampa police say Denson stole a car Thursday afternoon from a sales lot and forced her daughter inside. As she drove away, she knocked over a bystander who tried to stop her.

About 40 minutes later, the car pulled up to the Hillsborough River, which runs through Tampa. Witnesses told police that Denson dragged the screaming girl to the water, waded in until she was shoulder deep and pushed the girl into the current to float away. They said Denson then walked out of the water and away from the river. She was arrested nearby.

The girl was seen struggling in the water, her head and hands rising as she was swept away. Rescue divers pulled her from the water about 30 minutes later. She was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

Neighbor Shantia Little told the Tampa Bay Times that Denson would frequently leave Je’Hyrah and a young niece and nephew alone in her apartment. She told the paper Denson “didn’t care” about her daughter.

“That child is innocent,” Little said. “That child, she didn’t deserve that.”

In a similar 2015 case, police say a man threw his 5-year-old daughter to her death off the Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg as an officer tried to stop him. John Jonchuck Jr. is set for trial next month.

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