BRADENTON -- The mother of Janiya Thomas, charged with abusing and killing the 11-year-old girl and then hiding her body in a freezer, is tentatively set to stand trial in November.
Keishanna Thomas is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body.
In a separate case involving her then-12-year-old son, she is also charged with child abuse.
If convicted of murder, Thomas will automatically face life in prison. Last month, the State Attorney's Office indicated it would not seek the death penalty.
On Thursday morning, Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts appeared on Thomas' behalf after she waived her right to appear. Circuit Judge Susan Maulucci scheduled the trial for the two-week trial period starting Nov. 28. She told Roberts and Assistant State Attorney Art Brown a status conference could be scheduled a couple months before then to see how the case was progressing and if more time was needed.
Janiya's body was found Oct. 18 inside a padlocked freezer chest her mother had brought to a relative's home under the guise she was being evicted. The relative grew suspicious after seeing media reports Janiya was reported missing two days prior, so she broke the lock, found the girl's body inside and called law enforcement.
On Oct. 16 when Janiya was first reported missing to the Bradenton Police Department, Thomas was held in contempt of court after refusing to tell a judge any
thing about Janiya's whereabouts and well-being.
For weeks since investigators first realized Janiya was missing from her mother's home, Thomas had told them Janiya no longer lived with her or in the state, but she was unable to provide details about where and with who Janiya was with.
Child protective investigators went to the family's home Sept. 23 to investigate allegations Thomas had abused her then-12-year-old son when they first released Janiya was missing.
Her siblings told investigators it had been months since they saw Janiya. Her older sister said she remembered seeing their mother tie Janiya's hands and feet behind her back, dunk her head in water and then the bathroom Janiya was kept in was cleaned out and Janiya was never see again.
Thomas is being held without bond at the Manatee County jail. Her next scheduled court appearance is Nov. 16 for a docket sounding hearing.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.