2 Children Drown When Mom's Locked SUV Rolls into Miss. Creek After She Left Them to Go Shopping

Police tell PEOPLE charges will be filed against the mother

Photo: Leland Police Department

Two young children died on Saturday in Mississippi after the locked SUV they were sitting in rolled into a nearby creek.

According to a statement from the Leland Police Department shared on Facebook, police received a call around 5:45 p.m. “in reference to a white Nissan Pathfinder that was floating in Deer Creek … with three kids trapped inside.”

The children’s mother, who was identified by the authorities as Jenea Monique Payne, 25, told police she had left her three children — sons, Steve Smith, 4, and Rasheed Johnson Jr., 1, as well as daughter, Raelynn Johnson, 2 — locked inside the vehicle as she went into a Stop-N-Shop. It was not immediately clear if the motor was on or off at the time.

She went on to tell police that upon exiting the store, she saw that “her vehicle was gone and had rolled into the creek,” according to the statement. Her daughter was the only survivor.

On Monday, Assistant Police Chief Marcus Davis tells PEOPLE that after presenting the case to the District Attorney, the D.A. has decided to charge Payne with negligent manslaughter. The charges will be formally filed sometime on Monday.

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However, someone answering the phone at the DA’s office said he was unaware of the charges.

It was not immediately clear if Payne has a lawyer who could comment on her behalf.

According to the police statement, first responders “jumped into the creek and attempted to burst the windows out of the vehicle in order to get the kids out.”

But first responders were only able to rescue one of the three children before “having to swim to safety” as the vehicle went down in the water.

Volunteer firefighters continued to look for the vehicle when a rescue dive team arrived, police say. The vehicle was found at 8:00 p.m., and the bodies of two children were found inside, according to the statement.

Both of Payne’s sons were pronounced dead on the scene by the Washington County Coroner at 8:37 p.m.

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