BRADENTON -- A candlelight vigil in memory of Janiya Thomas will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday outside the home where Bradenton police said her body may have been found in a freezer last weekend.
"What I want to do, and what we want to do, is let the world know that this little girl is not going to be forgotten," said Wayne Washington, a Palmetto resident who is organizing the vigil. "We're trying to keep her memory alive."
Washington, who will meet others Sunday evening in the 5000 block of 21st Way East, said he doesn't want Janiya's death to be in vain. Washington said he never met Janiya but the girl was related to his sister.
The 36-year-old stand-up comedian and community activist has even given the 11-year-old a nickname -- Angel.
Janiya was reported missing Friday night after the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Child Protective Investigations unit arrived at the apartment of Janiya's mother, Keishanna Thomas, in the Village at Cortez complex to remove her five children.
Only four were found, and 31-year-old Thomas was arrested when she refused to talk about Janiya's whereabouts.
According to Bradenton Police Lt. James Racky, family members called police Sunday night after they found a girl's body in a freezer at Janiya's great-aunt and great-grandmother's house in the tranquil Woods of Hammock Place community.
The body has not been positively identified by the Medical Examiner's Office.
"This was the most terrible tragedy that I, in my 36 years, have ever had," Washington said. "Prayer changes things, and we got to go back to the basics, and that's coming together and praying together."
Last month, Washington helped organize another vigil in memory of Khasem Yousef and Faares Yousef, brothers who were killed while working a holiday shift at their family's Palmetto store, Snappy's Mart.
Washington hopes up to 400 people will attend Sunday's vigil, which is also open to children.
"We're going to surround that house, we're going to hold hands and we're going to pray," he said. "Even though I know a lot of people are angry and upset, the family needs support and love."
Washington has a message for Janiya's mother.
"I just pray that, through all of this, she can just get right with God. ... that she can get right with God," he said. "We're going to keep this little baby's memory alive."
Kelly Fraser, a Bradenton mother of two, said she will attend the vigil to show support for Janiya, her siblings and their extended family.
"A child really can't speak for themselves," the 34-year-old said. "They're not asked to be brought into this world -- they're a gift from God."
Fraser said children are supposed to be protected, and Thomas failed to do that.
"I want other children to know that, if this is happening, tell somebody," she said. "I want kids to know that they will be able to talk to somebody in the community."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.