Keishanna Thomas was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of her daughter Janiya Thomas, who was found dead her deep freezer in September.
According to CBS News, the Florida mother of five was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, an offense that could result in life in prison or the death sentence.
Thomas was previously charged with abuse of a dead body and aggravated child abuse of the 11-year-old, but the indictment will reportedly replace those charges. Janiya’s body was discovered by her aunt and grandmother in September after Thomas and her boyfriend Trayvon McCollough brought the freezer to the grandmother’s house.
McCollough testified he began dating Thomas just a month before her daughter’s body was found in October, and didn’t know about Janiya’s existence or that she was in the freezer, since it was always locked.
An autopsy showed Janiya weighed 44 pounds at the time of her death. Her right leg was broken and there were marks on her hands and feet, hinting to signs she was tied up. Bradenton Police Detective Adrian Meridan told reporters the child was discovered in a box with a shipping label in Thomas’ name under two boxes of baking soda.
Tuesday’s testimony from Thomas’ family members revealed the mother’s disturbing behavior towards her children. In total, state child welfare agency workers visited Thomas’ home on abuse cases ten times between 2003 and 2014.
Bradenton reports Thomas’s oldest sister testified that the last time she saw her niece, she was being tied up and dunked in water in the bathroom she was normally locked up in. Janiya was also last seen by her 12-year-old brother between January and February of this year. Her siblings said Janiya was kept in the bathroom because of her digestive problems. They were ordered to take food to the bathroom on occasion.
At times the girl managed to escape in attempts to find food. One of those times, Thomas caught her escaping and she took an extension cord from the television and beat her with it, leaving blood splattered on the hallway floor, according to the report.
Obtaining access to Thomas’ Facebook account with a search warrant, detectives found pictures of her children — many showing the freezer — but none of Janiya. Janiya was only mentioned once during the summer of 2013 and the message from her neighbor in December 2014 had been deleted, the report stated.
The last time Janiya was visited by child welfare workers was June 2014. Suspicions were raised after Thomas became hostile with a child protection case manager.
The jury deliberated on the murder charge for three hours. Thomas will return to court in May 2016 on a separate child abuse case involving her 12-year-old son.