Crime

Presumed dead Bradenton girl Janiya Thomas' mother remains silent and in jail after latest court appearance

Bradenton police say body of girl found in freezer

The body of a child believed to be missing 11-year-old Janiya Thomas was found in a freezer in a Manatee County home Sunday, Bradenton police said.
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The body of a child believed to be missing 11-year-old Janiya Thomas was found in a freezer in a Manatee County home Sunday, Bradenton police said.

MANATEE -- Janiya Thomas' mother remained silent and in jail after appearing in court Friday to face the newest charge against her -- abuse of a dead body -- in the case surrounding the disappearance and presumed death of the 11-year-old Bradenton girl.

Keishanna Thomas, 31, was charged Thursday with abuse of a dead body -- also known as "Caylee's Law" after the daughter of Casey Anthony -- and served her with a warrant at the Manatee County jail.

Law enforcement was called to the home of relatives Sunday night, after they had discovered a body believed to be Janiya inside a freezer. Thomas and a boyfriend, who police have not yet identified, brought the freezer to the home Oct. 14 under the guise she was being evicted.

Thomas made her brief appearance via video conference in front of Circuit Judge Deno Economou on Friday afternoon on the abuse of a dead body charge. Thomas stood silent.

"The bond shall remain the same," Economou told her. "Another judge set the bond, so the bond shall remain the same."

The warrant affidavit details how the frozen body of a small black child was contorted to fit in a small cardboard box within the freezer, along with two boxes of baking soda. Nothing else was inside the freezer. When questioned why it was locked and she was plugging it in, Thomas said she didn't want anyone to steal her meat and for it to spoil.

Earlier Thursday, police said the Medical Examiner's Office would be unable to identify the body found in the freezer or determine the cause of death before next week. Investigators were able to determine that the body had been placed inside the box before being placed in the freezer.

The body has not yet been positively identified and cause of death has not yet been confirmed, because the autopsy was inconclusive and more testing is needed.

Thomas is charged with abuse of a dead body, contempt of court, aggravated child abuse, child abuse and contempt of court. She has entered a plea of not guilty in the child abuse and aggravated child abuse cases.

Thomas has refused to talk to a judge about her daughter each time she was brought into court this week.

She was first brought before a judge Oct. 16 after refusing to tell investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Child Protective Investigative Division of the child's whereabouts. Investigators had come to the Thomas home in the Village at Cortez Apartments, 488 51st St. W., Bradenton to remove all five of her children as part of a child-abuse case involving her 12-year-old son.

Thomas was held in contempt of court and held without bond at the Manatee County jail after she refused to tell Circuit Judge Scott Brownell anything about Janiya's whereabouts or well-being.

CPI investigators reported Janiya missing several hours later to the Bradenton Police Department.

On Oct. 17, three of Thomas' other children -- ages 15, 12 and 9 -- were interviewed by investigators. One child said it had been more than a year since they had seen Janiya, who reportedly was often beaten and locked in the bathroom for days at a time by Thomas.

The Florida Department of Children and Families sent a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to Bradenton to review the presumed death case Monday.

On Thursday afternoon, without yet releasing any of the reports the Herald has requested of the multiple investigations involving Thomas, DCF released a statement from DCF Secretary Mike Carroll stating that the decision to close the case was a joint decision made by the sheriff's office CPI investigators, Sarasota Family YMCA case managers and DCF's Children's Legal Services.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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