Crime

Florida Department of Children and Families: Keishanna Thomas' children are 'unsafe due to the danger threat'

Janiya Thomas
Janiya Thomas

Florida Department of Children and Families: Keishanna Thomas' children are 'unsafe due to the danger threat'

MANATEE -- Janiya Thomas and her four siblings are considered to be "unsafe due to the danger threat" posed by their mother, according to copies of reports released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The reports, released after requests from the Bradenton Herald and other media, detail abuse and neglect suffered by Janiya -- found dead in a freezer Oct. 18 -- and her siblings that child welfare officials investigated on seven different occasions since 2004 and attributed to their mother, Keishanna Thomas.

One report stated Thomas, 31, in jail on charges of child abuse and abuse of a dead body, is pregnant with her sixth child. The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said the report of a pregnancy is not true.

Janiya was found dead inside a freezer at the home of a relative in the 5000 block of 21st Way East in Bradenton after the family saw reports in the media that Janiya was missing and grew suspicious of the locked freezer Thomas had delivered to the home Oct. 14.

Police have said Janiya was last reported seen in June 2014. Reports released Tuesday show sheriff's office child protection investigators last saw her in May 2014.

The most recent investigation of Thomas started last month, after her 12-year-old son was caught shoplifting, and he reported his mother had beaten him.

Thomas was arrested Oct. 16 for not answering questions about Janiya's whereabouts and well-being. Janiya's siblings told investigators the next day they had not seen her in more than a year.

7 investigations since 2004

The 26 pages of reports include investigative summaries completed by child protective investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office from seven separate investigations from 2004 to 2015.

The reports detail what investigators found to be the condition of the children's health and their home, and Thomas' response to what they found.

During the most recent investigation, sheriff's office investigators said they determined Janiya was missing.

In an investigative summary dated Oct. 12, investigators stated Thomas -- as a single mother of five children and pregnant with her sixth child -- is sometimes overwhelmed.

The report's safety analysis concluded her children were unsafe in their mother's custody.

"The children have been determined unsafe due to the danger threat presented by the mother due to her inability to properly discipline her children, control her violent tendencies or cooperate with the investigation," child protective investigator Danielle McCoy wrote. "The mother has a fifteen-year history with the department with several reports of physical injury and family violence."

The investigation was initiated after Thomas allegedly beat her 12-year-old son after he was arrested for shoplifting at the Walmart where she worked. The boy then snuck out to the apartment complex clubhouse seeking help.

McCoy was able to verify physical injury, maltreatment and "family violence threatening child" for the 12-year-old boy. "Family violence threatening child" was also verified for the other children, ages 15, 9 and 2.

During the investigation Sept. 24, Thomas told McCoy she wanted the 12-year-old boy out of the home, but she had no family in the area that could take him, according to the report. Arrangements were made for the child to go to a shelter, but Thomas refused to sign consent forms.

"When CPS returned to the home, there was loud, violent yelling coming from the families' apartment," McCoy wrote. "The fighting could be heard from the parking lot while the parents were behind closed doors in the apartment."

When Thomas was confronted, she denied the fighting and yelling, and refused to allow investigators to see the 15- and 9-year-old siblings. They were later interviewed at school where they admitting to being fearful when Thomas and her boyfriend would fight.

All the children spoke in very low tones as if they were afraid to speak loudly, McCoy also reported.

Prior to the most recent investigation, child protective investigators had not been in the home since May 2014. The sheriff's office said the last record of Janiya being seen was in June 2014 by officials with another child welfare agency.

In an investigation initiated May 23, 2014, and closed the next day, investigators did not list Janiya on the report. The only child listed was the alleged victim of a report of "environmental hazards maltreatment."

The report stated the 15-year-old went to school with a bad body odor on and off for the entire school year, and had to be given deodorant by the school. Also, once when the teen was hurt at school and Thomas was called, she told school officials to send the teen home on the bus. The injuries, however, caused the child to be sent to the hospital and police had to call Thomas to pick up the child there.

Thomas eventually picked her up from the hospital, according to the report.

An investigation initiated March 18, 2014, and closed May 2, 2014, is the last time Janiya is listed as a participant. Janiya's 12-year-old brother had told the apartment complex leasing manager Thomas had beat him with an electrical cord, which left welts on his buttocks and forearm. Thomas admitted to spanking the child but with an open hand.

That case was closed with the investigator listing allegations of physical injury as unsubstantiated. The report findings also state a doctor who examined the child verified the marks on the child were consistent with an electrical cord and deemed it abuse.

Investigation after Janiya birth

Since 2000, Thomas has had many run-ins with CPI, including the removal of her eldest child just after Janiya was born in 2004.

On Sept. 16, 2004, investigators received multiple reports Thomas had picked up a child off the toilet and choked her, then threw her on the floor and slapped her. The child was reportedly beaten every day and fed once a day. Also, the home was dirty and infested with roaches, rats and maggots.

At the time, Thomas was reported to have just given birth to Janiya prematurely, DCF documents show.

The investigation found the children were being given inadequate food, according to child protective investigator Jennifer Woodland's report. Her investigation also found one child had 22 scars and healing marks for which Thomas had no explanation.

The child was placed in the care of a grandmother.

None of the reports describe the abuse Bradenton police say Janiya suffered when they filed a charge of aggravated child abuse against Thomas last week.

The charge was based on what the girl's siblings told investigators after Janiya was reported missing.

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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