Mother charged with manslaughter in drowning case

Local News
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Update: 5:30 p.m.

A mother of three is charged with manslaughter, after two of her three children drowned in a car that rolled into a creek.

WJTV 12’s Gerald Harris has the story from Leland.

You can still see the tire tracks from where Jenea Payne’s SUV rolled into Deer Creek with her three children inside.

Leland Police say Payne went into the Stop n-Shop grocery store near the creek.

When she came back out she noticed her white Nissan Pathfinder gone. 

A preliminary investigation indicated the car rolled forward. 

The fire chief, his stepson, and friend jumped into the water to try to save the three children but the daughter was the only one they were able to rescue.

“The Fire Department was already on scene they had made contact with the kids already and the vehicle they were out in the middle of the creek trying to break the glass trying to get the kids out but they were only able to rescue one of them and the other two ended up drowning, ” said Assistant Chief Marcus Davis.

The police chief is asking the public to not leave their children unattended. 

The City of Leland is a small community of nearly 5,000 people — and the community has begun creating a makeshift memorial in honor of Steve Smith and Rasheed Johnson Jr. 

Their mother was booked and charged with two counts of manslaughter and one count of child neglect 



The mother of three young children has been charged two counts of manslaughter in the drowning deaths of two of her children.

Jenea Payne was booked and charged at the Leland Police Department Monday afternoon.

Saturday afternoon Payne went into a convenience store briefly leaving her children locked inside the car. According to a statement from police, the car rolled into Deer Creek.

Witnesses say Payne and several other onlookers jumped into the creek to try and rescue the children from the partially submerged car. They were able to rescue Payne’s two-year-old daughter, but her two sons drowned inside the vehicle.


A video obtained by WJTV shows several people jumping into Deer Creek Saturday afternoon to save three young children trapped in a partially submerged car.

Once rescuers reached the vehicle and popped the hatchback, they were able to pull two-year-old Raelynn Johnson to the surface.

Within seconds, the SUV went under the surface of the water. Rescuers struggled to get back to the bank of the swollen creek. At the same time, the car, still carrying four-year-old Steve Smith and one-year-old Rashid Johnson, Jr. began to move downstream. The sirens of a firetruck can be heard approaching the scene.

Leland Police say the mother, 25-year-old Jenea Monique Payne, tells them she left the children inside her car Saturday afternoon as she briefly went into a Stop-n-Shop.

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