Body Found in Freezer Confirmed to Be Missing 11-Year-Old Janiya Thomas; Court Papers Reveal Alleged Ongoing Abuse by Mother
Keishanna Thomas, 31, is suspected of killing her 11-year-old daughter, who hasn't been seen alive in more than a year
A body found stuffed inside a padlocked freezer earlier this month has been confirmed to be that of missing 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, a Bradenton, Florida, police spokesman tells PEOPLE.
Janiya’s mother, 31-year-old Keishanna Thomas, was taken into custody on Oct. 16 after she refused to tell authorities what happened to her 11-year-old daughter. Police first noticed that Janiya was missing after CPS officials went to the home to remove Thomas’ five children following a child abuse investigation into one of Thomas’s other children.
When investigators spoke to Janiya’s siblings, they said they hadn’t seen their sister in more than a year. “I think she is dead or something,” Janiya’s brother told police, adding: “One day we went to school and came back, she was just gone.”
Years of Abuse
According to newly released documents obtained by PEOPLE, Thomas allegedly abused her children for years. CPS officials visited Thomas’ home multiple times between 2004 and 2015, chronicling their encounters with the mother in 26 pages of reports. And, despite extensive evidence of alleged ongoing abuse, officials did not remove the children from the home until this year, writing on multiple reports that the overall risk to the children was “low.”
One report from 2004 – filed shortly after Janiya’s birth – states that Thomas allegedly fed her children one meal a day. Officials found the residence to be “nasty,” with “roaches all over” and garbage piled up around the home.
In that same report, one of Thomas’ children was found to have 22 scars and healing marks all over her body. When asked what happened to her, the girl told officials “Keishanna beat me.” Thomas denied hitting the child, but offered no other explanation for the injuries.
Another report from 2012 states that one of the children had “open burns on her arm, leg, ankle.” The girl said that the burns came from spilling hot soup on herself, “but it is questionable about whether this explanation is consistent with her injuries,” according to the report.
Yet another report from 2013 states that Thomas “dumped bleach” on Janiya’s skin, discoloring it, while a report from 2014 alleges that the mother beat one of her sons with an electrical cord. According to the latter report, Thomas admitted to spanking her son with an open hand, but a doctor who evaluated the boy “verified the marks on the child as abusive and consistent with being hit with an electrical cord.”
A separate report from 2014 states that one of Thomas’ children had to be given deodorant at school because she smelled so badly. “She lets them know when she runs out so they can provide her with more deodorant,” the report reads.
A final report from 2015 – the one that ultimately prompted officials to remove the children from the home – states that Thomas punched her 12-year-old “in the mouth and in his head” and “grabbed him by his head and banged the right side of his head into the mirror.”
Authorities Seeking Justice for Janiya
Thomas currently faces one charge of aggravated child abuse stemming from the incident involving her 12-year-old son. In addition, she’s been charged with contempt of court for refusing to tell investigators what happened to Janiya, as well as abuse of a dead body in connection to the corpse found in the freezer. She may face additional charges now that the body has been identified as her daughter’s. (Thomas has not yet entered a plea to the charges against her.)
The padlocked freezer was found at Janiya’s grandmother’s home. The grandmother told police that Thomas and another man dropped the freezer off there two days before Thomas was arrested. The grandmother ultimately called police to report the freezer when she realized that Janiya was missing.
Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski told PEOPLE he’s “flabbergasted” no one questioned the whereabouts of Janiya sooner. “There was a failure to do right by this girl,” he said, promising that he would seek justice for Janiya.
Janiya’s siblings told police that Thomas would often lock her in the bathroom for up to a week as punishment for soiling herself. The 11-year-old suffered from a medical condition that caused her to lose control of her bowel movements at times.
Investigators still have not determined how Janiya died.