Mother who allegedly drowned children had history of drug abuse, theft, homelessness
HOUSTON — Why did she do it? Were there signs? Could this have been prevented?
These are among a few questions that many have asked but sadly may never be answered about the mother accused of murdering her two children Friday at their home in the Third Ward. What we know for certain is Sheborah Latrice Thomas had a troubled past littered with drug use and a criminal record. Texas Child Protective Services said it was once forced to remove the children from her care.
Thomas, 30, was charged with two counts of capital murder Monday after she allegedly confessed to drowning her 7-year-old son, Araylon, and 5-year-old daughter, Kayiana, at their home in the 3000 block of Tierwester Street.
A friend who visited Thomas days after the crime happened reported that she “matter-of-factly” told him that she killed her kids when he asked of their whereabouts. That friend drove her to the Houston Police Department, where Thomas told officers the location of her children’s bodies. She also outlined the horrific details, police said.
Houston police said Thomas called her children one-by-one Friday into the bathroom, beginning with Kayiana, and drowned them each in the bathtub. Investigators said Araylon struggled but could not fight off his mother. Thomas then placed both children on a bed and wrapped their bodies in sheets, detectives said.
According to investigators, Thomas said she first tried to dig a hole in her backyard to bury her children but could not make one deep enough. She then hid her children’s bodies underneath her neighbor’s house, police said.
Those who know Thomas are trying to figure out what made her snap.
Thomas’ actions are eerily similar to those of Andrea Yates, another Houston area mother, who drowned her five children in 2001. Yates suffered from post-partum depression.
According to court documents, Thomas had been arrested for theft once in 2009 and twice in 2010. She was charged with failure to identify and giving false information in 2011, according to police records.
It was a 2012 incident involving her daughter — who was only 2 years old at the time — that prompted a CPS investigation, which resulted in the Kayiana and Araylon being placed with their maternal grandmother.
Documents state that a witness saw a little girl — later identified as Kayiana — sitting on top of man and shaking him. The girl was crying and the man was passed out.
The passerby called police who arrived and found the Kayiana cold and hypothermic. An ambulance rushed the girl to the hospital to be checked out. Doctors said Kayiana had some bruises and abrasions, but doctors found her to be overall healthy.
A caseworker did not interview Kayiana because of her age, but after observation the worker determined the girl was healthy and mentally on target for her age group.
Police said the man she was found with had a history of mental health issues and PCP abuse. He was taken to Ben Taub Psychiatric Hospital.
Investigators identified the man as Thomas’ friend — not her father. The friend told police he and Thomas were both homeless.
Investigators could not find Thomas but did find the children’s maternal grandmother.
The grandmother said she had not seen Thomas in weeks and, to her knowledge, the children should have been with their mother.
The grandmother told CPS she wanted her granddaughter and they placed Kayiana with her. Documents state Thomas later placed Araylon in her grandmother’s care before returning to live in a shelter by herself.
Detectives found Thomas living at the shelter and interviewed her. Thomas told investigators on the night Kayiana was found with her homeless friend, the two adults were trying to catch a bus to the shelter but the buses stopped running. Thomas said she caught a ride to the shelter but her friend and Kayiana fell asleep at the bus stop, which is when the passerby saw them.
Thomas admitted to having used marijuana and PCP in the past, according to CPS caseworkers.
CPS removed the children from Thomas’ care because she did not have a stable home. Documents show the children’s father was in and out of jail. He has a lengthy criminal history that includes charges for car and home burglary, marijuana possession, criminal trespassing, terroristic threat and assault of a family member.
CPS documents stated the Thomas’ mother “is very protective of Kayiana and Araylon Thomas and will not allow any [Thomas or their father] to remove them from her residence. A preliminary home study has been completed on this placement and has been approved.”
Investigators said Thomas has an older son from a different man but he son is most often with his father.
According to court documents dated April 8, 2014, the children were returned to Thomas and were “doing fine” after spending 10 months in her care. CPS caseworkers determined it to be in the children’s best interest to remain with their mother, the document said.
NewsFix reached out to the Office of Child Safety about their involvement with the family and the agency responded saying, “We cannot discuss details because of confidentiality and because of the current criminal investigation. It is important to learn everything we can about this tragedy, and what we can learn about what may have led to it.”
Officials said caseworkers will be conducting an independent and comprehensive review of how CPS handled any prior allegations involving the Thomas family.