A Mississippi mother who left her three children in a vehicle that rolled into a creek has been arrested and charged with negligent manslaughter, reports USA Today.
Jenea Monique Payne, 25, was reportedly arrested Monday and charged with two counts of negligent manslaughter and one count of child neglect, according to Leland Assistant Chief of Police Marcus Davis.
According to reports, Payne left her three children — Steve Smith, 4; Raelynn Johnson, 2; and Rasheed Johnson Jr., 1 — asleep in the car while she went inside of a store. She told authorities the car was turned off, but she left the keys in the car. But, according to witnesses the car was in park and running at the time of the incident.
The 4-year-old was in a seatbelt in the front seat while the youngest two children were in carseats in the back, David said. Payne was in the store for “five to 10 minutes.”
Davis said investigators believe the 4-year-old put the keys in the ignition, turned the car on and put it in neutral, causing it to roll into the creek.
“We’ll look into it further,” he said.
Payne was charged for the children’s deaths, Davis said, 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.”
Payne bonded out of jail Monday afternoon, Davis said. The bond amount was not immediately available. An attorney has not yet been appointed.
When asked about Payne being charged with manslaughter on what could possibly have been an accident, Davis told the publication, “The charge ain’t the problem. It’s losing the children that’s the problem. That’s the horrible thing.”