Vigil for Janiya Thomas draws hundreds to Bradenton neighborhood

Items left at a vigil for 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, who was last seen more than one year ago in Bradenton.

BRADENTON, FL (WFLA) – Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil outside the home where family discovered a child’s body in a freezer. Investigators are still trying to identify the body to determine if it is 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.

Extended family said they had not seen the girl for at least a year.

“We definitely know she’s an angel,” said Nicole Washington, Janiya’s cousin, “She’s God’s property now. She doesn’t have to suffer in this mean, evil world.”

Janiya’s mother, Keishanna Thomas, faces several criminal charges including abuse of a dead body and aggravated child abuse.

Manatee County sheriff’s officials said Keishanna Thomas’ relatives discovered a body they believed to be Janiya after cutting a lock to a freezer the girl’s mother dropped off days before.

More medical tests are needed for investigators to make a positive identification, and determine how the child in the freezer died.

Janiya’s family members say they feel judged because people wonder how Janiya could have been missing for so long without family knowing. They want to set the record straight.

“I’m here to clear my family name,” said Ceceila Washington, Keishanna’s cousin, “My cousin, she hadn’t communicated with us in over a year and a half, so it’s not like my family knew any of this.”

“I was clueless of it,” said Nicole, “To me, she was a hard worker, she kept her kids really nice, and she loved her kids from what I saw, versus all the judgement that people are putting on her.”

Months ago, during a funeral, the cousins claim they saw Keishanna Thomas with four of her children, and asked about Janiya.

“She told me Janiya was great, so what could I do?” asked Washington.

During the vigil, the crowd sang and prayed to honor Janiya. Family is grateful so many are reaching out to comfort them and remember the little girl.

“She was just a wonderful child, a wonderful child,” said Washington.

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