Scant emails detail two 2014 investigations of Janiya Thomas' mother
MANATEE -- While Keishanna Thomas had an extensive history since 2000 with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Child Protective Investigative Division, there were few emails on record concerning Thomas or her daughter Janiya before Sept. 23 among sheriff's investigators and case workers.
Starting on Sept. 23, there have been hundreds of pages of emails concerning Janiya or her mother as investigators searched for the missing child, records obtained by the Bradenton Herald show.
Investigators say they first realized Janiya was missing from her mother's home when they arrived on Sept. 23 to investigate the 12th allegation of abuse against Thomas in 15 years. The mother claimed the child was with relatives but could never provide any specifics about Janiya's whereabouts.
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On Oct. 18, two days after Janiya was officially reported missing, her body was found in a padlocked freezer Thomas had taken to a relative's home under the guise that she was being evicted.
Thomas is currently in custody at the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $200,000 on charges of child abuse, aggravated abuse and abuse of dead body. The medical examiner's office has not yet ruled whether Janiya's death is a homicide, necessary for the Bradenton Police Department to determine what charges are warranted.
Janiya was last recorded being seen alive on June 9, 2014, by a Safe Children's Coalition case manager during a visit in which Thomas became uncooperative. The family had been referred to the coalition for voluntary protective supervision by CPID stemming from the first of two investigations in 2014.
Both 2014 cases closed
About two dozen pages of emails were available with details on those two investigations.
Emails show the investigator in the first investigation reached out on April 14, 2014, to a coalition case manager, to see how the case was going.
"Is mom compliant with service referrals. I know she is using ELC, I saw her registering her child at daycare last week," investigator Troy Simon wrote.
Case manager Stephanie Goodman, with the Safe Children Coalition, responded, saying Thomas had a doctor's appointment for one of the children and had also been referred to Big Brothers.
"We discussed anger management. She is not happy about it, but will go for an evaluation. I will give her that referral tonight. She has been very cooperative," Goodman wrote in the email.
Simon responded, asking if she thought he could "close the investigation based on her current compliance?"
"Well, it might be best to see if she engages in the Anger Management evaluation. 1 more week???"
Simon said that was fine and he would wait.
That investigation was prompted on March 18, 2014, after the Bradenton Police Department was called out to Thomas' apartment complex when her then 10-year-old son said she had spanked him with an electrical cord.
"The child was observed with a raised welt on his arm while at the leasing office," Simon wrote in his case notes. "The child stayed behind while CPI and LE went to the home to talk to the mother who had attempted to report the child as a runaway."
Simon reported having face-to-face contact with each child that day, including Janiya, who he notes detailed her account of the incident between her brother and her mother.
"She stated that he don't tell the truth. She stated that he likes to lie about stuff," Simon wrote. "She stated that she feels safe in the home, she is not afraid of anyone, she always has clean clothes, food, lights and water. She stated that there are no drugs, alcohol and DV in the home. Child appeared to be healthy happy and free of all scars, marks and bruises."
An "Impending Danger Safety Plan" filled out by Simon states that the 10-year-old boy was going to stay with a family friend on the night of March 18, but then notes, "no place for the child to go, the child will stay in home."
Simon was advised by Florida Department of Children and Families attorney Pauline Black that he needed to "work the case, get information on the father's (sic) and see if the child can stay with relatives," according to his case notes.
Just after midnight, Simon logged he spoke with CPID supervisor Stephanie Metcalf-Clark "in reference to the child not having anywhere to go."
"She was advised that the child's welts are gone down, CLS gave no PC pending the CPT and the child stated that he is not afraid of the mom and he feels safe at home," Simon wrote. "She was also advised that there was a potential place for the child to go but it broke down with a registered sex offender living in the home."
Email records show an exchange between the two earlier in the evening that began when Metcalf-Clark asked Simon if he recalled the family from an investigation he closed in December. Simon responded, asking what the mother's name was.
"Keishanna Thomas, your report was about the mother throwing a phone at her partner and also throwing bleach onto the oldest child," Metcalf-Clark responded in an email.
Simon responded, "Not egregious ... Mom not arrested ... No concerns for other children."
"Good, I was hoping it wasn't too bad and that we could do services or something. Is BPD calling it in?" Metcalf-Clark wrote.
Simon replied, "Yes."
His investigative summary for the case states that the Bradenton Police Department sent recommended charges to the State Attorney's Office for review.
In response to the Herald's public records request to the State Attorney Office for documentation on the decision whether to file charges, the records clerk said that nothing was ever received in 2014 regarding Keishanna Thomas.
Bradenton Police Department officials said that police discussed the March 2014 allegations with investigators and that it had been decided there was nothing that constituted abuse, based on the detective's report.
In an email on the morning of March 21, 2014, from Simon to Linda Young, his assigned CPID supervisor in the case, he said he had submitted a non-judicial case but that it had not scanned over before he left.
"There will be a family meeting that will probably occur when I am out, can you assign someone to do this for me," Simon wrote in the email. "The mom spanked the child, she said with an opened hand, the child said with an extension cord and Dr. Isaac verified as marks from an electrical wire. VPS accepted by mom."
The second investigation in 2014 started May 22, when CPID received a report of Thomas' 14-year-old daughter coming to school with very poor hygiene. That case was closed with "no indicator" of abuse on the next day, according to the investigative summary.
Investigator Michelle Davis did not recommend services but said the family continued to be followed by voluntary protective supervision.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.