Crime

Janiya Thomas’ mother will stand trial in May on charge she abused her son

By JESSICA DE LEON

jdeleon@bradenton.com

MANATEE — Keishanna Thomas will stand trial in May on charges she abused her 12-year-old son, but no trial has been set for separate charges involving her daughter Janiya.

The aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body case involving Janiya was continued to Feb. 18 for another case management hearing.

Thomas appeared before Circuit Judge Susan Maulucci on Thursday for the case management hearing in both cases filed against her. Attorneys agreed to set the case involving her 12-year-old son for trial during the two-week trial period beginning May 2.

“I don’t feel we are really ready to select a trial date in that case,” Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts said when the attention turned to the case involving Janiya. “That case involves the other child.”

Thomas remained silent throughout the hearing.

Assistant State Attorney Art Brown and Roberts approached the bench to have a side bar with Maulucci before the Feb. 18 case management hearing date was chosen.

Janiya was last seen on June 9, 2014, during a visit to her home by child protection officials. During the visit, Thomas became uncooperative, leading to a child abuse case being closed rather than further intervention being sought.

The girl was first discovered missing from her mother’s home this past Sept. 23 when a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office child protection investigator was called out to investigate allegations Thomas had beaten her 12-year-old son.

On Oct. 16, after Thomas was arrested for failing to disclose details about Janiya’s whereabouts, Janiya was officially reported missing to the Bradenton Police Department. Two days later, the girl’s body was found inside a box in a padlocked freezer at a relative’s home that her mother had delivered four days earlier under the guise she was being evicted from her apartment.

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

The investigation into Janiya’a death remains ongoing. Janiya’s autopsy was inconclusive and futher testing was required, and the medical examiner is awaiting those results before making a ruling on the cause and manner of death.

 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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