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Attorney: Woman accused of leaving her daughter to drown in Hillsborough River will rely on insanity defense

Court documents state Shakayla Denson was "suffering from a mental infirmity, disease or defect" at the time.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The woman accused of stealing a car before wading into the Hillsborough River and reportedly leaving her 4-year-old daughter to drown in 2018 will rely on the insanity defense.

Court documents filed by Shakayla Denson's attorney claim she did not know what she was doing at the time. 

"At the time of the offense, Defendant did not know what she was doing or the consequences of those actions because the Defendant was suffering from a mental infirmity, disease or defect," the documents read.

Paperwork noting the insanity defense lists two doctors for psychotic disorder and major depression with psychotic features as "witnesses" to the claim. 

Denson's case dates back to Aug. 2, 2018, when she was accused of stealing a car before witnesses told deputies they saw her push a child into the backseat.

Almost an hour later, other witnesses say they saw Denson exit the car near the intersection of North Rome Avenue and West Aileen Street, forcefully remove the child from the car and drag her by her arms toward the river.

The child was later identified as Je'Hyrah Daniels, Denson's daughter. 

According to police, witnesses said Denson held Je'Hyrah close to her chest as they went deeper into the water. When the water was near the top of Denson's shoulders, she reportedly let go of Je'Hyrah and turned around and headed back to shore.

Je'Hyrah was found unconscious in the water about 30 minutes later and was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Denson was originally deemed not competent to stand trial in December 2018. She was sent to a state hospital for competency training. Three doctors had been assigned to evaluate her.

She was then deemed competent to stand trial on June 25, 2019.

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