The mother of a Florida girl found dead in a freezer has been sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Keishanna Thomas, 33, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading no contest to charges of second-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body.
Authorities say the body of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas was found in October 2015 in a freezer that her mother had delivered to a relative’s Bradenton-area house.
‘I’m doing this, Your Honor, because I feel this is in my best interest and that I don’t want to put my kids through a trial,’ explained Thomas in court Wednesday.
‘I think this is the most horrific child death I was ever involved in,’ said prosecutor Arthur Brown, according to News Channel 8. Brown said this amounts to a life sentence.
Florida authorities first noticed Janiya Thomas was missing in October 2015, when officers with the Manatee County’s Child Protective Investigations unit arrived at Thomas’ apartment to take away her five children and found only four of them there.
Thomas refused to say where her daughter was. She was arrested for contempt of court.
Her body was in the freezer for up to 16 months before police found her body.
In the indictment it is alleged Thomas killed Janiya through some combination of starving, asphyxiation and drowning. She was last seen in June 2014.
A state report said child protective services investigators and partnering agencies failed to accurately assess the pattern of violence at the Thomas home for years.
Two days later, Janiya’s aunt and grandmother called police to say they believed the girl’s body was hidden in a freezer in their home.
They said that Thomas and a unknown black man had moved the padlocked freezer into their home on Wednesday, but the two women hadn’t looked inside it until they heard that Janiya was missing.
It’s believed that she has been missing since August 2014, but police say they only learned about her disappearance in 2015.
‘I’m really upset that we let this child down,’ Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said.
He added that he was ‘flabbergasted’ no one questioned Janiya’s whereabouts for more than a year, saying he was angry that ‘a child could just disappear and no one asked nothing’.
Thomas had apparently been under investigation by child protective services, but always had an excuse for why Janiya wasn’t around when authorities checked in on her.
‘Nobody told us until Friday night,’ Bradenton Police Department spokesman Lt. James Racky said.
‘Her mother pulled her out of school because of her medical condition … and said she was home-schooling her in 2013.’
Janiya suffered a digestive condition. ‘She could not always tell when she had to go to the bathroom,’ Racky said.
‘That’s one of the reasons the mother was frustrated with the child and kept the child in the bathroom at her residence.
‘That medical condition is the same one that killed Janiya’s father.’
Thomas’ four other children – a 15-year-old girl, 12-year-old boy, nine-year-old girl and two-year-old boy – are in protective custody.