Mom In Drowning Death Will Remain In Jail

Tampa, Fla.  (970 WFLA) - A Tampa mother accused of dragging her 4-year-old daughter into the Hillsborough River, and leaving her to drown, will remain in jail.

Shackled, looking around the courtroom at times, and crying on a few occasions, 26-year-old Shakayla Denson listened on as prosecutors made their case to Hillsborough County Judge Wesley Tibbals that she would still be a danger to the community if she was let out on bond during a lengthy court hearing on Wednesday.

The judge heard from one witness, a cleaning lady at a nearby house who spoke through an interpreter about how she spotted Denson and her daughter, Je'Hyra Daniels, last Thursday as they pulled up alongside the Hillsborough River.

That woman described the car they were in, now identified as a 2007 Nissan Altima that police say was stolen from a nearby car dealership, saying it had large numbers on the window. 

She went on to describe that as she was cleaning on the front porch, she again spotted Denson clutching Daniels as she made her way out into the river, before releasing her.

The woman says she saw Daniels raise her hands and head out of the water before she disappeared.  She later identified Denson after Tampa Police officers had taken her into custody.

The judge also heard from the lead Homicide Detective, Matthew Kirkpatrick with the Tampa Police Department. He described his interactions with Denson following her arrest as he attempted to interview her.

"The statements that she made to me were that her family was out to get her.  She also stated that the maintenance man at her apartment complex was maybe in her apartment and put a spell on her apartment," Kirkpatrick told Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Johnson.

He also described his attempt to Mirandize her, advising Denson of her rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney.

Kirkpatrick says when he specifically asked her about having an attorney present, he went on to describe their conversation.

"She said she would like someone here.  I asked her who would you like here and then she proceeded to say she had a lot of questions and wanted to know what’s going on."

After several attempts to clarify who she wanted and if she meant an attorney, Kirkpatrick decided not to continue the interview at that point.

Detective Kirkpatrick also confirmed that the autopsy performed by the Medical Examiner's Office determined that Daniel’s cause of death was drowning.

Assistant State Attorney Johnson summed up their case for keeping Denson in jail saying, "She took her 4-year-old, innocent and helpless, autistic, and non-verbal child into this body of water, and let her drown and exited that water and left her there."

Denson's defense attorney, Jennifer Spradley, told the judge that what happened to Daniels was an accidental drowning. 

Judge Tibbals agreed with prosecutors, saying that Denson still posed a threat to the public if she were to be released and no conditions of bond could ensure the public's safety.

Denson's case will now head to a grand jury, where prosecutors will present evidence to have her indicted for first degree murder. 


Booking photo of Shakayla Denson, Courtesy: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office


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