October 22, 2015 

By FREIDA FRISARO and

KELLI KENNEDY 

Associated Press 

The siblings of a missing 11-year-old Florida girl told child welfare investigators that they went to school one day and never saw their sister again, and one boy told them, "I think she is dead or something," according to an affidavit in the case.

 

The girl's mother, Keishanna Thomas, 31, remained in jail Tuesday on contempt and child abuse charges. She has refused to talk about the whereabouts of Janiya Thomas. She appeared before Circuit Judge Diana Moreland again Tuesday morning, and Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts said Thomas is "not going to be making any statements at all."

 

Another hearing on the contempt charge is planned for Thursday morning.

 

The heavily redacted affidavit, dated Monday and first reported by the Bradenton Herald, was released by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. It describes remarks made by the three oldest of Thomas' five children in interviews with investigators. One child told them that Thomas punished Janiya for soiling herself by leaving her inside a bathroom for long periods of time. When asked how long, the child said it was a week or so, with Janiya even eating in the bathroom. He said his mother slept in the front room so she could catch Janiya if she tried to sneak out at night.

 

When asked how the girl celebrated her birthday last year, the child said Janiya just stayed in the bathroom. One child said the mother used a belt and punched Janiya.

 

Manatee County Sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said that since 2003, there have been 10 reports involving the family, including the most recent one, which was opened Sept. 23.

 

Authorities say they think Janiya has been missing for at least a year, but they didn't know she was gone until Friday, when investigators went to Thomas' Bradenton apartment to take custody of the children. That move stemmed from a previous incident involving alleged abuse of her 12-year-old son. The investigators found four children, ranging in age from 2 to 15, but couldn't find Janiya. They say Keishanna Thomas refused to tell them where the child was.

 

Police began searching for the missing girl, and eventually relatives heard about the search. That prompted the child's grandmother on Sunday evening to open a padlocked freezer that had been dropped off at her house last week by Keishanna Thomas and a man. Inside, they found a body and called police.

 

The medical examiner's office has not confirmed the body is Janiya, but police believe it is.

Category: News



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