It happened Sunday night in the 4300 block of West Orem Drive in Houston.
She abandoned two of her daughters - ages 13 and 11 - and then continued to drag her 9-year-old daughter towards a bayou nearby, police said. A witness told investigators that the woman revved up the engine until it caught fire, and when the witness intervened, the woman fled on foot with the children.
"When they [witnesses] approached the auto, they heard the female say something to the effect of 'We're going to see Jesus, '" police lieutenant Larry Crowson said, according to KTRK.
A family friend of the suspect, Ana Ester Segovia, had taken her children to church earlier Sunday morning. The owner of the vehicle wash says he was one of the many people to call 911.
But Segovia tripped and fell before officers caught up and arrested her.
The children were not harmed in the incident, Houston Police confirmed.
Segovia is charged with aggravated assault on a family member. Police say the woman eventually made a decision to leave the area with her kids but was captured by Precinct 7 deputy constables.