UPDATE: Further medical examination is required before authorities can positively identify the body, according to the Bradenton Police Department.
PREVIOUS STORY: MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – A Bradenton Police arrest affidavit made public Tuesday details a horrific portrait of abuse before Janiya Thomas, age 11, disappeared and turned up last week as a frozen body locked inside a family freezer.
“Sometimes she would ‘doo-doo’ herself,” one of Janiya’s siblings told investigators. The child said that prompted his mother, Keishanna Thomas, to lock Janiya inside a bathroom for prolonged periods of as long as a week. The child also said his mother forced the girl to sleep outside to keep her from sneaking out at night. Keishanna Thomas would sometimes “whoop” Janiya with a belt or “just punch her,” the child said.
The child insists Thomas would force Janiya to eat inside the bathroom and made her stay there – even on her birthday. Manatee County abuse investigators last saw Janiya alive on June 9, 2014 while looking into the abuse of one of her four siblings. They insist she was OK at that time and they had no reason to maintain scrutiny of the family, even after nine abuse investigations involving the mother of five dating back to 2003.
“It was decided that there wouldn’t be an additional scrutiny unless something came up again,” Manatee Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said. “Something did come up, but it wasn’t until September 23rd.”
That’s when abuse allegations of Janiya’s brother surfaced after a shoplifting incident. At this time, investigators determined Janiya was missing. Thomas has refused to discuss her daughter’s whereabouts with detectives, leading to a contempt charge. One of her children told police that he went to school one day and when he returned Janiya “was just gone.” Bristow said that was about a year ago.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office says Thomas took a padlocked freezer to her grandmother’s house after they began inquiring about Janiya. The grandmother opened the freezer last weekend and found a body believed to be Janiya.
Because of its frozen state, the District 12 Medical Examiner still hadn’t performed an autopsy on the body. The autopsy is needed to determine positive identification and cause of death.
After three court appearances since Monday, Thomas remained in the Manatee County Jail Tuesday evening on a $100,000 bond. She’s charged with aggravated child abuse related to Janiya and a misdemeanor abuse charge stemming from the recent treatment of Janiya’s brother. All four children found living with Thomas are now in state custody.
Bradenton police say a murder investigation is ongoing. When detectives asked one of Janiya’s siblings what his gut feeling was about her disappearance, they say he replied “I think she is dead or something.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is deploying a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to Manatee County. DCF is directing all questions on the case to the sheriff’s office. DCF released a statement Tuesday indicating that “a multidisciplinary review team will work with the MCSO Child Protective Investigations Division to review all the details and involvement with this family.”
DCF says the subsequent “CIRRT” report “will be made public upon completion.” It will be available online.
Bristow indicated Monday his agency is in the process of redacting nine previous reports involving the family and will soon release them under the authorization of DCF.
There is a hearing scheduled in the current case at 1 p.m. at the Manatee County Courthouse. It’s not clear whether Keishanna Thomas will appear in person at the hearing or on a video screen from jail.