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Published: Friday, 4/24/2009

Mother of Michigan girl found in storage charged


Associated Press Writer

FLINT, Mich. (AP) The mother of a 9-year-old quadriplegic girl whose body was found stuffed in a storage bin was charged Friday with her murder.

Lorrie Thomas was expected to be arraigned later Friday in a Flint courtroom on charges including second-degree murder, child abuse, tampering with evidence and welfare fraud.

Thomas, 39, has been in custody since Wednesday, when investigators found Shylea Myza Thomas s body in a locked storage unit near Flint, which is 65 miles northwest of Detroit. The body was in a black trash bag and stuffed into a plastic bin with mothballs to cover up the smell.

Authorities have not said what caused Shylea s death.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who planned a news conference later Friday, said he didn t know if Thomas had retained a lawyer.

Thomas was Shylea s adoptive mother. The woman s cousin Josette Thomas, 39, said Lorrie Thomas is not a bad person. Something happened. She panicked and made a mistake.

Shylea had been taken out of school in January, and relatives told state officials they had not seen her in six weeks.

Seven other children ranging in age from 3 months to 15 years were removed from Lorrie Thomas Flint home and are now in foster care.

The case unfolded this week when relatives of the girl told the state Department of Human Services about possible neglect and said they hadn t seen the child in six weeks.

A case worker, Aaron Clum, visited the home Monday and was unable to confirm Shylea s whereabouts, according to a court document filed in the family division of the Genesee County Circuit Court. According to Clum, Thomas told him the family was moving to Virginia and the girl was on her way with a friend.

On Tuesday, the department asked Flint police to investigate. Thomas again insisted Shylea was bound for Virginia, Clum wrote, but that could not be confirmed.

Shylea s body was found early Wednesday morning hidden in a unit at Stor & Lock in Vienna Township.

Shylea had been paralyzed since nearly suffocating in her crib when she was 3 months old, Leyton said. She lived with several relatives in a Flint home that the prosecutor described as absolutely filthy.

Leyton said he didn t know the whereabouts of Shylea s biological mother.

/AP-CS-04-24-09 1226EDT

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