The body of a Florida 11-year-old girl who had apparently been missing for more than a year—though authorities say no one reported her disappearance or questioned her whereabouts—was found in a freezer that her mother left at the home of some family members, police said Monday. "I'm really upset that we let this child down," Bradenton police Chief Michael Radzilowski said of Janiya Thomas. Janiya's grandmother and aunt told authorities that the girl's mother, 31-year-old Keishanna Thomas, and a man left the padlocked freezer at their home Wednesday, but they didn't yet realize a body was inside. Two days later, child protective service officers showed up at Thomas' apartment in Bradenton to remove her five children from the home, according to police and other state officials. Florida's Department of Children and Families had an open investigation on Thomas.
When the officers checked her home, they found only four children. Thomas wouldn't discuss the child's whereabouts, so a judge ordered her held on contempt of court charges; she has now been charged with aggravated child abuse. Radzilowski said police in Bradenton—south of the Tampa Bay area—didn't know Janiya was missing until Friday, after the state's visit to the home. "This child, depending on who you talk to, has been missing for one to two years," Radzilowski said. "And no one said anything. Not family members, not cousins, or uncles, or neighbors, or school officials. I'm so angry." Janiya's grandmother and aunt decided to open the padlocked freezer in their garage after hearing police were looking for the child, Radzilowski said. They found the body and have been cooperating in the investigation, Radzilowski said. Thomas' other four children—ages 15, 12, 9, and 2—have been taken into state custody, according to DCF.