Because he believes he has enough evidence to merit a trial, Indiana County District Attorney Pat Dougherty says he intends to pursue a conviction for third degree murder against Tonya Thomas in the drowning death of her 13-month-old son. State police yesterday re-filed criminal homicide and aggravated assault charges against Thomas, whose son was left in a bathtub on February 2nd with his 3-year-old and 2-year-old siblings at a home along Roush Drive in WhiteTownship.
Last week, District Judge Susanne Steffee dismissed the criminal homicide and aggravated assault charges, while ruling that there is sufficient evidence for Thomas to stand trial for three felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child and a single misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment.
Dougherty says he will not present new evidence, but when Thomas appears for a preliminary hearing next Wednesday afternoon, he will present more evidence, including Thomas’ previous history of involvement with Indiana County Children and Youth Services. The D.A. says third degree murder does not require “intent” to kill, but “wanton and willful disregard”, which is what he says Thomas exhibited. Thomas’ attorney, Bradley Ophaug, argued at the first hearing that intent should be taken into consideration.
Thomas now lives in Clarksburg and is due to give birth soon. Her husband, Wesley, will face trial for three counts each of endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment. Both are scheduled for formal arraignment June 20th before Judge Tom Bianco.
One aspect of the case that will be different at next week’s hearing is the absence of state trooper Josiah Murdock, the lead investigator who testified last week at the original proceeding. He was in a motorcycle accident last weekend and is in critical condition in a North Carolina hospital.