Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Opening arguments begin in trial

by on June 24, 2014 11:00 AM

Opening arguments were under way this morning in the trial of a mother accused of negligence in her son’s bathtub drowning.

According to state police in Indiana, 13-month-old Ryden Thomas Jr. drowned Feb. 2, 2013, after his mother, Tonya N. Thomas, left the boy and his two siblings unattended in a bathtub. Police said Thomas stepped away from the bathroom to take care of some other chores in her home, and when she returned to check on the children, she found her son face down in the water.

He was taken to Indiana Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Although his death was an accident, prosecutors contend that it was avoidable. Had she not left them alone, they say, the boy would still be alive.

They’ll argue during the trial that Thomas should be convicted of third-degree murder, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

At the time of Thomas’ arrest, District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said a lack of proper supervision had been an ongoing problem in the Thomas household, and Indiana County Children & Youth Services had visited the home several times on reports of inadequate supervision.

Thomas’ attorneys, public defenders Brad Ophaug and AnnMarie Everett, have said Ryden’s death was a tragic accident and nothing more.

Thomas’ husband, Wesley Allen, who was home at the time and was playing video games in another room at the time of the drowning, also had been charged in the incident. Under an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to the three counts of endangering the welfare of children, and was sentenced to three months to two years in jail, plus probation.

Thomas’ case is being heard by a jury of seven men, five women and two alternates, who were all selected Monday.

President Judge William Martin is presiding. The trial is expected to conclude by the end of the week.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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