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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

DCF drops case and missing child is found dead, in freezer

22

October

Keishanna Thomas’s name — and those of her five children — appeared again and again in reports to the state’s child abuse hotline. The calls began more than a decade ago. There were an even dozen.

In June 2014, just as state lawmakers were passing the most far-reaching reform of Florida’s child protection system, Thomas decided she had had enough of caseworkers coming to her home and scrutinizing her children. “Ms. Thomas became uncooperative” a report said.

The Department of Children & Families could have asked a judge to force Thomas, now 32, to let workers into her home, to accept their oversight. But agency lawyers instead insisted the state walk away.

It was a tragic mistake.

When the next report — No. 13 — was phoned to the hotline earlier this month, an investigator made a startling discovery: Thomas now had only four children. Eleven-year-old Janiya was nowhere to be found, and her mother had nothing to say about her whereabouts. What is believed to be Janiya’s body was found Sunday night inside a locked freezer in a relative’s garage. “The freezer was brought to the relative’s home by the mother . . . under the guise that she was being evicted,” a DCF report said.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll declined to discuss the case Wednesday with the Miami Herald. In a short statement, the agency’s press secretary, Michelle Glady, said Carroll has dispatched a “Critical Incident Rapid Response Team” to Bradenton to look into the agency’s long history with the Thomas family, and to investigate the actions leading to Janiya’s death. Story by Carol Marbin Miller here. 

Photo: Janiya Thomas

[Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2015 8:58am]

    

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