Alarming DCF report on Janiya Thomas case released
BRADENTON (FOX 13) - There's alarming new information in the case of a missing Manatee County child whose body was found inside a freezer.
The Florida Department of Children and Families spent the last month reviewing the case of Janiya Thomas. DCF has some critical things to say about how the Manatee County Sheriff's Office handled the days and months leading up to the gruesome discovery.
According to the report, MCSO's Child Protective Services investigators had many red flags that could have potentially saved 11-year-old Janiya's life, or, at the very least, alerted them months ahead of time, that she was missing.
Case files dating back to the early 2000s paint a picture of a little girl who said she "loves school" and whose favorite subject was science.
Fast forward to November 2015, and a DCF report is questioning how Janiya's life could have been saved. Relatives found her body inside a freezer on Oct. 18th. It was a freezer owner by her own mother, Keishanna Thomas.
According to the new report, Thomas' history with CPS dates back to 2000, when she was 16, and nowhere to be found to give consent for her premature baby to get medical treatment. Through 2015, the mother of five was investigated for family violence, physical abuse and neglect.
The report shows that over the years, there were doctors who confirmed scars left by burns and beatings with extension cords. There were investigators concerned by a controlling mother who wouldn't let them take pictures of her kids. And finally, it was an allegation of abuse that made them stop and question where Janiya actually was. That was September 23.
For weeks, Thomas could not prove Janiya was safe. Siblings told an investigator that their mother said Janiya was "at God's mom's house." Despite all that, the case was closed October 12th.
It wasn't until a supervisor with Safe Children's Coalition/Cornerstone sent an email saying, "I'm very concerned about this child's safety." A missing child alert was issued October 16th.
Two days later brought the discovery of Janiya's frozen body.
DCF cites "ill-informed decision-making" in this case. It said Janiya should have been a "missing child" at least a month earlier, when her mother did not present her. DCF also said the investigator closed the case without recognizing Janiya could have been in danger or missing.
It concluded, "the family was not adequately served by the child welfare system, even though the available services existed in Manatee County to serve the family."
Following the release of the report, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube released a statement.
"First and foremost, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office is deeply saddened by the death of Janiya Thomas. The Manatee County Homicide Unit continues to investigate the criminal case."
Steube went onto say that procedures have been implemented, which include making sure all children known to a parent or caregiver are accounted for, giving parent or caregivers just 24 hours to confirm the location of a child not at home and immediately initiating a missing child report, if that information is not provided.