Report: Mother upset daughter had disability

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A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigation found no signs of child abuse from a Tampa mother. Two days later, she was accused of drowning her daughter in the Hillsborough River.

On Friday afternoon – the day after the 4-year-old died – the sheriff’s office announced they had conducted an “inadequate” child supervision investigation into 26-year-old Shakayla Denson and her daughter, 4-year-old Je'Hyrah Daniels.

The investigation started on June 19 and the case closed on July 31, concluding there were no indicators of “maltreatment, abuse or neglect.” However, following Je'Hyrah’s murder on Thursday, the agency said they will review the original findings. 

A 17-page report released Friday may offer new insight into Denson's state of mind. The documents paint a different picture of the mother, who police say threw in her toddler in the river to drown.

One passage says, "Ms. Denson loves being a parent.."

Dr. Walter Alfield, a licensed psychiatrist, has more than two decades testifying as an expert witness in murder cases. He says this case is one of the worst he's seen.

"This is a failure of the mental health system. Somebody should have picked this up when there were complaints beforehand," Dr. Alfield said. "It's a sad case. A sad case of a psychotic woman. Somebody did the right thing calling HRS. HRS didn't follow through from what I can see at this point."

Child services visited home after the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office received a call from someone alleging Denson wasn't properly supervising her child. The caller was worried Je'hyrah may wander off and get hurt.


In the report, the investigator said Je'hyrah "appears to be happy and energetic," but said the mother seemed upset her daughter had disabilities, adding that it seemed Je'hyrah was "not the baby that she dreamed of having."

"They should have put her in the hospital or taken the child away or something at that point until they got a proper assessment," Dr. Alfield said.

The Department of Children and Families issued a statement on behalf of Secretary Mike Carroll.

"I am horrified and disgusted that a mother would do this to an innocent child. DCF will work closely with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office child protective investigative unit to hold Je’Hyrah’s mother fully accountable for her actions under the law," Carroll wrote.  "I have ordered a comprehensive review of the prior investigation conducted by HCSO for inadequate supervision involving Je’Hyrah which closed with no indicators."

On Friday morning, a judge set no bond for Denson. Following the court hearing, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan held a press conference, but there are still few answers, including a motive.


"Unfortunately," Dugan said, "when you're dealing with these tragic situations, we tend to have more questions than answers...we still have a tremendous amount of information to sift through."

Some of Denson's neighbors couldn't believe the news.

"She was at the park with her daughter, giving her juice," said Tiara Guiong, who lives in the unit above Denson's apartment. "[When] everyone found out about what happened, everyone was in tears. Everyone. Everyone over here, even the grown men were crying. You know what I mean? Because it's just tragic."

"What can you say? I don't know what to say," Guoing added, "just that it's a tragedy that this happened. You can't understand it. Only she knows."

One of Denson's relatives stopped by the bank of the river Friday afternoon, where a small memorial is growing. He said the entire family is devastated, in shock and that no one saw this coming.