Multiple witnesses had called police about 30 minutes earlier and had reported seeing a woman throw the girl into the river. "It's hard to believe that somebody would steal a vehicle with a child and then leave them to drown in the Hillsborough River".
Authorities said Denson stole a gray Nissan Altima from a fix shop before driving to the river.
At around 4 p.m. calls started coming into police from witnesses who saw the mother park near the river then drag the girl by her arms from the auto into the water.
CBS Tampa affiliate WTSP-TV reports Shakayla Denson, of Tampa, was charged with first-degree felony murder, aggravated child abuse and grand theft auto. "We're still digging into Denson and what her state of mind is", said Dugan.
The woman, whose identity has not yet been released, was arrested a short time later not far from the scene. She's now facing a murder charge.
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A photo taken by a neighbor showed a woman wading in the middle of the river, slowly walking back to shore.
"Witnesses report the child was screaming and at one time, both the child and the mother were screaming". "We're going to have to figure out what her mindset was that took her and put her in a place where she would leave a four-year-old to drown in the Hillsborough River".
Je'Hyrah Daniels, 4, was diagnosed with autism.
Vicki Walker told 10News she saw Denson in the river from her condo balcony. Authorities say they were on scene immediately and the dive team began a frantic search.