BRADENTON -- Janiya Thomas' mother was ordered held without bond Wednesday on charges she abused and killed the 11-year-old girl, then hid her body inside a freezer.
Keishanna Thomas was indicted Tuesday on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body. If convicted of first-degree murder, Thomas would be sentenced to either life in prison or death. Prosecutors say they have not decided whether to pursue the death penalty.
Thomas appeared before Circuit Judge Robert Farrance on Wednesday afternoon for a first-appearance hearing to face those charges.
"I ask the court to leave it at no bond," Assistant State Attorney Art Brown said. "We submit that the probable cause affidavit details information which satisfies the article standard that the proof of guilt is evident and the presumption of guilt great."
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Assistant Public Defender Anne Hunter said the defense did not object to Farrance ordering Thomas held without bond.
Thomas' sister was in the courtroom accompanied by an unidentified man. Her sister did not say anything.
Investigators in the case, including Bradenton Police Detective Adrian Meridan, were also present but were not called to testify at the hearing.
Janiya Thomas was officially reported missing to the Bradenton Police Department on Oct. 16, after Keishanna Thomas refused to tell officials details about her daughter's whereabouts. Investigators had first noticed Janiya missing Sept. 23 when they came to the family's home to investigate an allegation that Thomas abused her 12-year-old son.
Two days later, Janiya's body was found inside a cardboard box inside a padlocked freezer Thomas had left at a relative's home. The relative had become suspicious when she saw media reports that Janiya had been reported missing, broke the lock, found Janiya inside and called the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Janiya's eldest sister told investigators she saw her mother tie up Janiya's hands and feet one day and then dunk her head in water. Afterwards, the bathroom in which Janiya was often locked in was cleaned and open, and Janiya was never seen again.
Janiya's brother told investigators he last saw his sister in January or February of this year. The FedEx box in which Janiya was found had a label on it dated Jan. 7.
Thomas' next court hearing in this case is Feb. 18.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.