Mother of 11-Year-Old Found Dead in Padlocked Freezer Indicted for Murder; Court Papers Reveal Allegations of Horrific Abuse

Keishanna Thomas was arrested on Oct. 16 after she refused to tell authorities what happened to her daughter

Photo: Bradenton Police Department

The mother of an 11-year-old girl whose body was found stuffed inside a freezer was indicted for first-degree murder in Bradenton, Florida, on Tuesday, PEOPLE confirms.

Keishanna Thomas has been in custody at the Manatee County jail on charges of abuse, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead human body since October. She was arrested on Oct. 16 after she refused to tell authorities what happened to her 11-year-old daughter, Janiya.

Police first noticed that Janiya was missing after Child Protective Services officials went to the home to remove Thomas’ five children following a child abuse investigation into one of the other children.

Police ultimately found Janiya stuffed inside a freezer after receiving a tip from one of the girl’s family members.

Thomas had left the freezer, which was secured with a padlock, with the family member the night before her arrest. When the family member asked why it was padlocked, Thomas answered, “So no one steals my meat,” according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

After the relative learned Janiya was missing, however, she opened the freezer and discovered a small child inside, according to the court documents. She called police.

Bradenton Police Detective Adrian Meridan was among the first to see Janiya’s body. “The child was completely frozen and appeared emaciated,” Meridan wrote in the court documents.

An autopsy showed that Janiya weighed just 44 lbs. at the time of her death. Her right leg was broken, and her hands and feet showed signs of ligature marks indicating she’d been tied up, according to the court documents.

Missing for More Than a Year

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 in October, court documents state.

Janiya’s eldest sister told detectives that her mother used to lock Janiya in the bathroom because she suffered from a medical condition that caused her to lose control of her bowel movements at times, according to the court documents. The sister said one day she saw Thomas tie Janiya up and dunk her head in water inside the bathroom. After that, the sister never saw Janiya again, the documents state.

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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.

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.

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.”

Thomas is being held without bond and is due in court on Wednesday. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges against her, save for murder. For that, she has not yet entered a plea.

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