BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — The state Department of Children and Families said Thursday that it is conducting a review of how it handled the life and death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, who went missing for a year and whose body was presumed to have been found in a relative's freezer.
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement that his agency is trying to find out whether anything could have been done differently to prevent Janiya's death.
"After the horrific tragedy of the murder of an innocent child, we have to stop and think about what we can do to get better to ensure this does not happen again," Carroll said.
Authorities say the recent autopsy on the body believed to be that of Janiya was inconclusive. Bradenton police Chief Michael Radzilowski said more medical testing is needed to determine the cause of death and for a positive identification. He said results will likely be announced next week.
Janiya's siblings 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 on contempt and child abuse charges. She has refused to talk about the whereabouts of Janiya Thomas. A hearing on the contempt charge was held Thursday and Thomas refused to talk, despite the pleas of her own public defender to answer questions.
Thomas went to court last week after refusing to tell investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Child Protective Investigative division Janiya's whereabouts. Investigators went to the Thomas home to remove all five of her children, as part of a child abuse case involving Thomas' 12-year-old son.
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.
DCF made a recommendation to close a 2014 case as noncompliant when Ms. Thomas refused voluntary services.
DCF Secretary Carroll said that decision was a joint consensus among the Manatee County Sheriff's Office's child protective investigators, Sarasota Family YMCA case managers, and DCF's Children's Legal Services.
"When this joint recommendation was made, all of the children were with the family," he wrote.