Crime

Janiya Thomas' mother has been accused of abuse for years, but little action taken, reports show

Bradenton father of 2 of Janiya Thomas' siblings concerned for their well-being

The father of two of Janiya Thomas' siblings says he is concerned for their well-being.
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The father of two of Janiya Thomas' siblings says he is concerned for their well-being.

MANATEE -- Teachers, Keishanna Thomas' children and others all reported to local and state child welfare officials that the children were being burned, hit and living in filthy conditions for years. There were a dozen reports over 15 years. Yet prior to the most recent investigation, investigators said there wasn't enough evidence for action to be taken to protect her children.

Only one time, 11 years ago, after Thomas left 22 scars or healing marks on her now 15-year-old, was a child ever taken into protective custody. Thomas completed a "case plan" and the child was returned. After that, no action was taken on any of the other reports.

Thomas learned not to cooperate fully with the Florida Department of Children and Families. She could just refuse any suggested services after an investigation was closed, regardless of the questionable conditions investigators found.

"There have been ongoing department involvement with Keishanna and her family dating back to 2000," wrote Manatee County Sheriff's Office child protective investigator Danielle McCoy in the most recent investigation against Thomas. "The mother is consistently uncooperative with (Child Protective Investigators), and she does not follow through with services when they have been offered and put in place."

Janiya Thomas, 11, was first reported missing Oct. 16 when her mother refused to tell anyone about the girl's whereabouts or well-being. Her mother was arrested after she refused to talk to a judge.

On Oct. 17, following their mother's arrest, Thomas' children told investigators they hadn't seen Janiya in more than a year, and one sibling went as far as to suggest Janiya may be dead.

Late Oct. 18, law enforcement was called to the home of a relative in the 5000 block of 21st Way East after finding Janiya's body in a freezer Thomas had delivered days earlier. Thomas, along with a boyfriend, brought the locked freezer to the house under the guise she was being evicted.

Police have said Thomas had two boyfriends during the time in question and they are investigating both men's involvement. The most recent CPI investigation reveals a boyfriend named Trayvon McCollough was interviewed, but no charges have been filed against McCollough.

Thomas remains in custody at the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $200,000 on charges of aggravated child abuse, child abuse and abuse of a dead body.

Lurid details

DCF released copies of the investigative summary reports Tuesday, after requests from the Bradenton Herald and other media. The 26 pages are full of vivid allegations of years of child abuse. On Wednesday, the Herald revealed details specifically from investigations in 2004 and in the past year.

In September 2007, child protective investigators received allegations claiming Thomas had pushed her now 15-year-old daughter, and as a result bruised the child's right arm and left a mark on her face.

"Case is being closed with some indicators based on the fact (alleged victim) would not talk to CPI, but did state that she fell and she scratched herself," investigator Lynda Zink wrote in her report summary.

In May 2012, child protective investigators received a report of suspected abuse because the oldest daughter had burns on her arm, leg and ankle for about two weeks, not believed to be from spilling soup on herself as the child said. The report also stated the girl had been absent from school 13 times since March 1 of that year. Since mid-January of that year, the girl had major hygiene issues including wearing the same clothes two to three days at a time, foot odor, pungent odor during menstruation and wearing pants so big they had to be held with a belt.

In child protective4 investigator Jose Rufino's report, he states all the children said the burns happened at their grandmother's house and she had taken the girl to the hospital right away. The report also stated there were child vulnerability and protective capacity implications.

The report mentioned the burn was caused by accident by a brother -- whose arm was broken and in a cast at the time -- who was running with hot soup. A doctor denied the burns were consistent with abuse and all the allegations were denied.

In November 2013, investigators received an allegation Thomas had thrown a phone at her "partner." It was also alleged Thomas had previously dropped bleach on Janiya, discoloring her skin.

Thomas told investigators her "friend" attacked her, but police reports said Thomas had attacked her friend, according to child protective investigator Troy Simon's report. Thomas said she didn't intend to continue the friendship and wouldn't let the woman back in her home.

A 2014 report references other investigations for which DCF had not released reports. Two reports were filed prior to Janiya's birth in 2000 and 2003. Additional reports referenced are from investigations in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

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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