In what has turned out to be a distressing turn of events for the city of Leland in Mississippi, a mother from that area has been accused of leaving her three children in a car–two of whom drowned on Saturday, Mar. 9.
The police and investigators working on the case have released reports to news outlets, as the investigation progresses as to how the tragedy involving Payne actually happened.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jenea Monique Payne Is a Young Mother of Three, Who’s in Her Mid-20s
Payne is 25 years old, according to police. She hails from Mississippi.
She left her children in a locked car–which has been noted as an SUV. The car rolled into a creek, and two of her three children drowned.
Leland Assistant Chief of Police Marcus Davis gave the report.
Payne was free on bail at the time of reports.
2. Jenea Monique Payne Left Her Kids in the Car for “Five to 10 Minutes”
Payne’s children are Steve Smith, four years of age, Raelynn Johnson, two years of age, and Rasheed Johnson Jr., who was one year old.
Payne told police that she left the kids asleep in the car, while she went to a local convenience store. The car was turned off, Davis said, but she left the keys in the vehicle.
The four-year-old, Smith, sat in the front, while the youngest two children were in car seats in the back.
Reportedly, Payne had been in the store for “five to 10 minutes.”
Davis reported that investigators believe young Smith put the keys in the ignition and put the car in neutral, which caused the vehicle to roll into a creek.
Davis said he had no reports yet on why Payne could have left her sleeping children in a locked car with the keys still in the ignition, nor how Smith, a four-year-old, could have reached the brakes, depressed it, and maneuvered the SUV.
“We’ll look into it further,” Davis said, according to reports.
3. Jenea Monique Payne Now Faces Charges for Drowning Her Kids
According to The Clarion-Ledger, Leland, Miss. police charged Payne with two counts of negligent manslaughter and one of child neglect, on Monday.
The Leland Police Department posted the message above on Monday:
“On 3/11/2019, Jenea Payne was booked and charged at the Leland Police Department for an incident that occurred on 3/9/2019 involving the death of her two sons,” the department said. “Jenea Payne was charged with two counts of Manslaughter-Culpable Negligence and one count of Child Neglect. Jenea Payne received an initial appearance on today and was released on her own Recognizance Bond by the Washington County Justice Court.”
4. Some Mothers Echoed Sympathy for Jeana Monique Payne, Some Disagreed
As can be seen in the Facebook page above, some mothers admitted to having been in a rush, which can lead to carelessness with their children.
One Facebook poster, Amanda Pearl Nguyen, wrote:
Let me just say this! I am a parent of 6 and I myself have left the kids in the car while I ran in to grab that one thing I needed! Does that make us a bad parent, NO!!! This young lady is gonna have to live with this pain for the rest of her life! People never think something like this will happen! Now I myself will rethink my actions but I do not believe she should go to jail over this! She has already given herself a life sentence!
Another poster chimed in:
“Are you serious!!!!” wrote Shequite W Johnson. “Lord be with this young mother. My mother did the same thing to my sister and I when we were 4 and 5 years old. I pulled the gear down and we went rolling. A worker name Pie jumped in the car, pushed me aside and stop the car before we went in that same creek. Speaking with my mother the day before this happened we all laughed about us almost dying just to wake up hearing this news. This could have been my mother and I know she loves us dearly. She just didn’t want us begging in the store so she told us to stay in. Lord please help Jenea.”
Not everyone was on board with that argument, however.
Dante Hadley, for example, said:
“I read some of the comments. People need to understand! you really not supposed to leave your kids in the car for any reason. Don’t matter if you have just 1 or 10 of them you choose to have them. If you going to leave them anywhere have an adult not a under 18 year old to watch them unless they know how to handle situation! It doesn’t matter if they bad and you just getting something simple anything can happen.”
5. Firefighters and Other Civilians Rushed to Help Jenea Monique Payne’s Children
Reports state that firefighters and passerby rushed to save the three children when they saw Payne’s vehicle rolling. They jumped into the creek and attempted to break the vehicle’s windows.
Only Payne’s daughter, Raelynn Johnson, made it out of the efforts. The four-year-old and one-year-old boys drowned.
The Clarion Ledger interviewed a firefighter named Sara Hester who questioned if she could have done more. “I think I’m still a little in shock,” Hester reportedly told the Ledger. “I got real upset about falling. I let myself start wondering. I physically could not have gotten to the scene any faster.”
As for Johnson making it out, “That was a complete godsend,” Hester said. “I think that was completely God’s work. That had nothing to do with me. I’m not the one who saved that kid, God did.
“I don’t know how she’s alive,” Hester said, calling Payne’s little daughter, “a walking miracle.”
The SUV sank as well, but it was reportedly found hours afterward, carrying the bodies of the two boys.
Of Payne’s charges, Davis said that she was charged, 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.”
According to Davis, the case will now head to the office of District Attorney Dewayne Richardson. His department had not consulted with Richardson’s office before filing the charges against Payne.