Jenea Payne, 25, was at a Stop&Shop in Leland, a city roughly 85 miles northwest of Jackson, while her three young children, ages 1 to 4, were inside her Nissan Pathfinder, the Leland Police Department wrote on Facebook.
Payne told investigators that when she exited the store on Saturday, she saw her vehicle was gone and had rolled into Deer Creek.
Police officers and firefighters “jumped into the creek and attempted to burst the windows out of the vehicle in order to get the kids out.”
First responders were only able to rescue one child from the vehicle, and the other two floated away down the creek in the locked SUV, according to police.
A rescue dive team found the vehicle with the children still inside hours later.
Steve Smith, 4, and Rasheed Johnson, Jr., 1, were pronounced dead by the Washington County coroner, officials said.
Marcus Davis, assistant chief of police, told the Clarion-Ledger that investigators believe the 4-year-old put Payne’s keys in the ignition, turned the vehicle on and put it in neutral before it rolled off.
Payne was booked on Monday and charged with two counts of manslaughter-culpable negligence and one count of child neglect, the police department wrote. She was released on her own recognizance after she made an initial court appearance.