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Bradenton meeting: Janiya Thomas child murder suspect Keishanna Thomas was abused as a child

Attendees at a Straight Talk community meeting Tuesday in Bradenton say the mother suspected of killing her 11-year-old daughter had been abused herself as a child.
Attendees at a Straight Talk community meeting Tuesday in Bradenton say the mother suspected of killing her 11-year-old daughter had been abused herself as a child.

BRADENTON -- The feeling expressed in the Straight Talk community meeting Tuesday night was of hope and people desperate for change.

Some people at the meeting shared stories about Keishanna Thomas, including claims of her abuse. Some claims read a lot like what the Florida Department of Children and Families report the mother of five did to her own children.

In the packed room full of people from the Bradenton community, emotions ran high.

"We've got to get together. We've got to come together and know one another," yelled one man.

All the people there said they're concerned about the case and the future of children who might be in similar situations.

"Yes, she needed help. Yes Janiya's in a better place. But what we gonna do to help everybody else's kids?" said one woman in the crowd.

Some people at the meeting were strangers. Some were directly connected to Janiya Thomas' family.

Beverly Bell said the abuse in this family goes back generations. She says she watched Janiya's mother, Keishanna, grow up and was also abused as a child.

"It kills me and it hurts me to my heart because I knew the little girl. I knew what she went through. I knew what was done to her," she said about Keishanna.

From beatings to living in filth and withholding food, DCF documented it all with Keishanna's children.

"I'm not defending or condoning what she did," Bell said. "But I don't think she understood what she did was wrong. I don't think she knew what she was doing was wrong until it happened."

Now the task with this community is to make sure this cycle stops.

"This is solution time," said Straight Talk organizer Wayne Washington. "What are we gonna do different now?"

A lot of the people who attended the community meeting know Keishanna. Some say they feared something like this could be going on but never imagined it was as bad as DCF documents say it was.

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