THREE teenagers will be charged in the fatal shooting of a six-year-old boy after his mother's car was stolen with him sleeping in the back seat.
The men from Mississippi were arrested hours after the child's body was found and will be charged with capital murder, which makes them eligible for the death penalty.
Kingston Frazier was shot at least once and the car abandoned in a muddy ditch around 20 kilometres north of the capital.
The boy was shot in the back of the head, Madison County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Heath Hall told CNN.
The boy's mother, Ebony Archie, had left the boy in the car with its engine running, while she went inside the supermarket in the early hours of Thursday morning, sheriff's deputies have said.
The car park is patrolled by sheriff's deputies, including one in a golf cart.
He went missing some time after 1am, when a man was seen on video taking the car from the car park of a supermarket in state capital Jackson, authorities said.
The disappearance sparked a massive search, with a child abduction alert played repeatedly on local newscasts and police and family members issuing public appeals for help.
"We've been looking for him for nine hours in every neighbourhood in Jackson," said the boys' aunt Deanna Moore.
Addressing those who took the car, she added, "You could have just dropped him off."
Nine hours after the boy vanished, a man reported the missing Toyota Camry dumped beside a dead-end road in the northern suburb of Gluckstadt.
Authorities announced Kingston's death Thursday morning, surrounded by grieving family members.
Ms Archie collapsed after learning her child had been killed, USA Today reported, and had to be carried down a flight of stairs at the district attorney's office.
In between screams and sobs, she shouted: "I told y'all that s*** wasn't right, I told y'all."
Byron McBride, D'Allen Washington and Dwan Wakefield were arrested hours after the body was found after video and a witness helped identify them. Authorities said Washington and Wakefield are both 17 but McBride's age was not immediately released.
In Mississippi, 17-year-olds accused of capital murder are tried as adults.
The district attorney also said it was possible the charges might change, adding the three are expected to make initial court appearances on Monday. One lawyer said he is not yet officially representing one of them and declined requests for comment. Guest said the other two do not yet have lawyers. Authorities did not answer questions at the news conference with reporters, and it's unclear what role each of the three suspects is alleged to have played.
"A 6-year-old is gone," said Kingston's cousin, Kolby Irby. "His mother has to deal with this. That's her baby."