Aunt is held in 9-year-old quadriplegic's death

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Date: 2009-04-23

Girl's body found in storage unit


The body of a missing 9-year-old quadriplegic girl was found in a rented storage unit near Flint on Wednesday, and the aunt who adopted her was in custody in connection with her death.

Police discovered the body of Shylea Myza Thomas about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday inside a rented unit at a storage facility in Vienna Township. The body was found inside a garbage bag that was stuffed in a rubber storage container and covered with mothballs.

"To have to die in such a manner is extremely tragic," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said Wednesday. Authorities are expected to meet at noon today to discuss not-yet-released autopsy results to determine whether the girl died of natural causes, neglect or if she was murdered, said Assistant County Prosecutor John Potbury. Even if no foul play is found, a misdemeanor count of moving a dead body could be filed.

Shylea's relatives contacted the Michigan Department of Human Services at 5 p.m. Tuesday to report that they hadn't seen the girl in six weeks, Leyton said.

Shylea and her 11-year-old sister were adopted by the aunt "because the biological mother is not in the picture," he said.

Flint police immediately began a search for the girl, who became a quadriplegic after she was accidentally suffocated in a bassinet when she was 3 years old.

"Their main goal was to find this child," Leyton said. "We were hoping that maybe the child could be located and, if not saved, at least given a decent burial."

The girl's aunt, who has had custody of her and the girl's 11-year-old sister for more than three years, rented the storage unit six weeks ago, he said.

Shylea was one of eight children who lived at the aunt's home, along with Shylea's sister, the aunt's four children, and two children of the aunt's 15-year-old daughter.

All the children are now in state custody, he said.

Contact TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA: 313-223-4456 or

Staff writer Zlati Meyer contributed to this report.


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