Two children drown after the car they were locked in rolls into a creek while their mother shopped
Jenea Monique Payne, 25, was arrested and charged with negligent manslaughter in the death of the two children
A Mississippi woman has been arrested and charged with negligent manslaughter after she left her three children in a vehicle that slid into a creek, drowning two of them to death as a result.
According to Leland assistant chief of police Marcus Davis, 25-year-old Jenea Monique Payne was charged with two counts of negligent manslaughter and one count of child neglect after being arrested at around noon on Monday, Daily Mail reports.
During an interview with investigators, Payne said she had left her three children asleep in the car when she went inside a convenience store. While the car was turned off, Payne had left the keys inside the vehicle.
However, witness accounts have claimed that while the vehicle was parked, the engine was running at the time of the tragedy.
While Steve Smith, 4, had his seatbelt on in the front seat, Raelynn Johnson, 2, and Rasheed Johnson Jr., 1 were seated in the back, according to David.
Payne was gone for "five to 10 minutes" when detectives believe the four-year-old put the keys in the ignition, turned the car on and put it in neutral, thereby causing the vehicle to roll into the creek.
However, there are some valid questions that are still unanswered. Davis wasn't able to explain why the mother would have left her sleeping children locked in a car with the keys still inside, or how the four-year-old could have reached the brake to crank the SUV, owing to his obviously short stature. "We'll look into it further," Davis said
Bystanders at the scene joined hands with responding firefighters and jumped into the creek to try and save the children. While they broke the vehicle's windows and managed to rescue Raelynn, they couldn't save the two boys. The SUV, which drifted away with the river current, was found four hours later with the bodies of the two boys still inside.
According to Davis, Payne was charged for the children's deaths because "she ended up leaving three minors unattended for a length of time when she went into a store. That's illegal in itself. That was part of the negligence that led ultimately to their deaths."
That said, while the case is now set to go to the District Attorney's office, the department did not consult with the DA before filing charges against Payne, Davis said.
Davis was asked why Payne, who bonded out of jail Monday afternoon, was being charged with manslaughter on what could possibly have been an accident. In response, he said, "The charge ain't the problem. It's losing the children that's the problem. That's the horrible thing."