Mom Who Dragged Autistic Little Girl Into River & Drowned Her Will Not Face Trial, Found Incompetent: Report

A Florida woman who dragged her little girl into the Hillsborough River earlier this year will not stand trial the child’s death. On Tuesday, a Tampa judge ruled her incompetent to stand trial.

NBC8 reports that the judge announced his decision during a brief hearing on Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom, after two psychiatrists evaluated the mental health of Shakayla Denson, 26. Denson is accused of killing her 4-year-old daughter, Je’Hyrah Daniels, on August 2.

According to Tampa Bay Times, Denson “forcefully pulled” the little girl out of stolen 2007 Nissan Altima, then dragged the scared, screaming child across grass and pavement until she reached the edge of the Hillsborough River. Witnesses said they watched Denson wade into the water while holding Je’Hyrah in her arms. When the water reached Denson’s shoulders, she let go of Je’Hyrah and watched the water take the little girl away.

Witness Maira Artigas could see the child’s hands reaching out of the water, but within minutes, Je’Hyrah disappeared.

“I only saw the little hands and the head and that was it,” Artigas said in August.

Rescue divers arrived on the scene and within minutes, pulled the child out of the water. It was too late. The girl was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

According to court documents, Daniels, who was arrested the same day the incident occurred, “spontaneously stated (that) now the victim was ‘pure’ and was with her grandmother,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Court documents also indicated that Daniels was having a difficult time caring for her autistic, non-verbal daughter.  In June, HCSO Child Protection Investigation Division investigated Daniels for possible child neglect and abuse.

“The mother seems overwhelmed and tired with caring for Je’hyrah. Je’hyrah is [redacted] non-verbal, and it seems like the mother is upset that she has these disabilities and is not the baby she dreamed of having,” the court documents read. “The mother is easily distracted and doesn’t show much attention toward Je’hyrah. She just lets her run around and do what she wants. She doesn’t seem to have the maturity to address the special needs that JeHyrah has.”

HCSO closed the report in July after ruling out abuse and neglect.

Denson is scheduled to be transported to a state hospital to undergo “competency restoration treatment.” The judge’s ruling doesn’t mean Denson evaded prosecution. However, she’ll need to undergo treatment if and before another trial is set.

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