The mother of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, whose body was found a year ago in a cardboard box inside a padlocked freezer after having been dead for months, will not stand trial until August 2017.
Keishanna Thomas had been scheduled to stand trial beginning Nov. 28. But Circuit Judge Susan Maulucci granted a continuance in the case, delaying the trial. Thomas is now scheduled to stand trial during the two-week period beginning Aug. 21.
Issues concerning Janiya’s cause of death that could not be fully explored by November were among the reasons cited by Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts in his motion for the delay, according to court records.
Thomas is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body for the abuse investigators say she inflicted on Janiya. If convicted, she faces an automatic sentence of life in prison.
She is also facing a separate charge of child abuse related to Janiya’s brother.
After Janiya was found dead Oct. 18, 2015, Janiya’s older sister told investigators that months earlier she had seen their mother tie Janiya’s hands and feet, and dunk her in water in the bathroom. The bathroom was then cleaned and Janiya was never seen again, according to investigative reports.
Thomas has been held without bond at the Manatee County jail since her initial arrest on Oct. 16, 2015.
On Friday, Maulucci approved Roberts’ request to delay the trial, with no objection from Assistant State Attorney Art Brown.
In addition to issues surrounding Janiya’s cause of death, court records reveal that the case would not be ready to go to trial in November because all the depositions in the case would not be completed by then. Additionally, one of the defense’s experts needs more time to complete a review and be ready for trial.
Janiya’s cause of death has not yet been made public by investigators. Her autopsy — done several days after she was found to allow her body to thaw — was inconclusive and further testing was ordered to determine cause of death.
Janiya was first reported missing to the Bradenton Police Department on Oct. 16, 2015, after Thomas refused to tell a judge about the girl’s whereabouts. Two days later, Janiya was found inside the padlocked freezer that Thomas had brought to the home of a relative under the guise that she was being evicted.
Thomas was under her 12th investigation for allegations of child abuse when Janiya was discovered missing from the home. For weeks, Thomas had refused to tell child protective investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office where Janiya was after they removed her four other children.