Vigil held remembering 11-year-old Janiya Thomas

- The songs and prayers that friends and family of Janiya Thomas sang in Lincoln Park in Palmetto Sunday evening won't bring Janiya back. They know that. But they hope they can inspire others to take action if something seems odd, if a friend or family member is in danger.

"She was a real quiet beautiful little girl, soft-spoken, didn't say too much," said Wayne Washington, Janiya's cousin and a community activist.

Her emaciated 44-pound body, only 11-years-old, was found stuffed in a locked freezer in October of 2015, allegedly placed there by her mother, Keishanna Thomas.

"This could have been avoided," said community activist Ronald James. "I really truly believe she fell through the cracks because nobody is paying attention. Everybody wants to mind their own business."

Washington said this should be the lesson of her short life:

"Don't just Facebook them or wait to see them on social media. We need to start calling, going to their houses, and making sure everybody is OK. If we didn't learn anything else from this tragedy, we should learn unity in the community."

This second-annual vigil in Janiya's honor is under a backdrop of a trial scheduled for late August.

Keishanna Thomas is facing murder charges. Her lawyers want the trial moved out of Manatee County, to supposedly avoid a jury pool that is familiar with the case from media coverage.

"It should be held here because the crime happened here, her family is here, her friends were here," said Washington.

Janiya Thomas will never again have a voice, but her death could have impact.

"It was so tragic. It touched everybody," said James. "We need to come together as a people. As a people. Everybody."

The family says they expect the judge to rule on the location of the trial possibly by Tuesday.

Keishanna is charged with first-degree murder, but prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

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