Everyone's worst nightmare came true Thursday for all of those who knew Janaya Thompson at the Palms Apartments in Gulfport. Family, friends, and neighbors often saw her playing around the neighborhood, but on Thursday, her lifeless body was found in an abandoned trailer not far from home, leaving an entire community reeling with disbelief, shock, and sorrow.
It was with heavy hearts that family, friends, and neighbors learned of Janaya’s fate. While there are still a lot of questions about what led to her death, people News 25 spoke to are finding it hard to believe the little bright-eyed girl is gone. Emotions erupted when the news broke, confirming everyone's worst fears. A body was found in an abandoned trailer after a massive overnight search, not far from where 5 year old, Janaya Thompson, was playing before she disappeared.
Tonya Kruger, a neighbor, says, "I swear, every resident was out looking for her. We all had our flashlights looking in every nook and cranny even all the way to the school, even at the playground at the school. Everyone came together to try to find her." Kruger says Janaya, better known as Naynay by her family and friends, was very outgoing for her age. She believes the little girl's sweet nature could have played a role in her disappearance. Kruger also says, "She would pet our dogs if we were out walking, she was up all over this apartment, and then she would pet our neighbors’ dogs and everything like that. She was friendly, which was a great quality to have, but it’s also a concerning quality.”
Janaya's death hit close to Mariah Tackett's heart. Tackett says, "I don't know who would do that to a five year old girl, that's a baby, that's like a little bitty baby. She might have a good future ahead of her, people just don't think of that." Sheila Lovejoy, another neighbor, is a mother of two. She was one of hundreds of people who scoured the area throughout the night. Lovejoy says, "I texted my 18 year old this morning. I know that's pretty sad, just to make sure she was okay."
Lovejoy says her stomach is in knots for the young girl's mother. Lovejoy also says, "Probably distraught, feels miserable, probably feels like it's her fault and she just needs to know that it's not her fault." Having lost her own child, Kruger aches for Janaya and her family, and knows the journey ahead of them will be a long and difficult. Kruger closes, "They’re gonna’ be all over the place with this, and what I've had to get through a child dying very young, you try to get through the anger and try and find the peace."
In the meantime, family, friends, and neighbors say they'll be there for the family every step of the way. Residents at the Palms Apartments tell News 25 that vigils and other events are being planned in Janaya's honor. News 25 will give you those details as they become available.