TAMPA -- Shakayla Denson, 26, appeared slightly disoriented as she wiped her tears, clutching her shirt and hands to her face.
Denson faced her pretrial hearing Wednesday after being accused of stealing a car from an auto shop and drowning her 4-year-old daughter in the Hillsborough River last week. She was charged with murder the same day.
Je’hyrah Daniels' body was found by a dive team around 50 to 75 feet from where witnesses said they saw a woman and child in the river.
During the pretrial hearing, Detective Matthew Kirkpatrick said that Denson told him she thought the maintenance man may have put a spell on her apartment complex and that she thought her family was out to get her.
Some of Denson's family members were in attendance at the hearing.
Kirkpatrick, now the main detective in the case, says he later tried to interview Denson who seemed unaware of what was going on. He ended the interview, thinking she was not in her right mind.
Someone who appeared to be Denson was seen walking into the river while holding Daniels' left hand, according to a witness who was cleaning a nearby home.
The witness says when she turned back, she no longer saw the child.
Denson was allegedly seen walking to the edge of the river as she splashed water on herself. The witness says Denson looked out at the water closer to the shore and shouted. She was seen kneeling in the grass after getting out of the water.
The details of the case grew grimmer as Kirkpatrick testified about how law enforcement stopped Denson outside of the river. As she was walking down Rome Avenue, she was singing the nursery rhyme, "It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring."
Two additional witnesses say they saw Denson as she pushed her daughter into the back seat of the Nissan Altima. She allegedly continued to lunge forward in the car, shouting obscenities at the man who tried to stop her, driving over his foot.
The stolen Nissan Altima was found outside of the river which both witnesses identified as the same vehicle taken from the auto shop.
Family members informed officials that Daniels had autism and was non-verbal. They reportedly said they were not aware of Denson having any sort of mental illness.
Preliminary autopsy results show Daniels' cause of death was drowning, and the case has been ruled a homicide.
The judge ruled Wednesday that Denson should continue to be held without bond. Her next court date has not been set.
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