Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Sentencing delayed for mom in bathtub drowning

by The Indiana Gazette on July 17, 2014 11:00 AM

A sentencing hearing for Tonya Thomas, the former Indiana-area woman convicted last month in the bathtub drowning of her 13-month-old son, has been delayed while she undergoes mental examinations.

Indiana County Judge William Martin on Wednesday postponed sentencing until Sept. 22 and granted defense attorney Bradley Ophaug’s request for the testing.

The county will pay the costs of a psychiatric evaluation and an intelligence test to be conducted by Dr. Christine Martone, of Pittsburgh, online court records show.

Thomas, 27, remains free on an unsecured bond of $250,000 to await court action in the case. Thomas faces a maximum 10 years in prison for the most serious of the charges.

Thomas was charged following the death of her son, Ryden Wesley Allen Thomas Jr., on Feb. 2, 2013, at their home along Roush Drive in White Township. Investigators said the boy drowned after Thomas left him in the bathtub with his 2- and 3-year-old siblings and relied on the other children to alert her if there was a problem.

Thomas left the children alone while she performed some household chores and found Ryden facedown in the water a few minutes later, state police said.

A jury convicted Thomas on June 25 of a second-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter and five other charges, including aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

District Attorney Patrick Dougherty sought a third-degree murder conviction against Thomas, calling her criminally reckless in her disregard for her children.

Ophaug countered that Thomas is a caring mother, and that Ryden Thomas’s death was, at most, an accident, the same kind of tragedy that could strike any family.

Ophaug could not be reached this morning for comment on the request for mental testing of Thomas.

Police also filed charges against the children’s father, Wesley Thomas, reporting that the toddler drowned while he sat in a bedroom not far from the children and used a cellphone after Tonya Thomas asked him to “keep an ear out” for them. Wesley Thomas pleaded guilty to three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and was sentenced in December to serve three months to two years in jail and one year on probation.

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