By Darrell Todd Maurina
Alesia M. Thomas, 22, showed little emotion Tuesday afternoon as she replied in a soft voice to a long list of questions by 9th Judicial District Judge Joe Parker, confirming she understood the terms of a plea bargain. The agreement will put her in state prison for at least 12 years in connection with the December 2002 death of her 15-month-old son.
Thomas entered an Alford plea — maintaining her innocence while admitting sufficient evidence exists to convict — to a charge of child abuse resulting in death and could face a prison term of up to 18 years. Her plea agreement with District Attorney Brett Carter drops more serious murder charges that carried up to a 30-year sentence.
Parker ordered a 60-day diagnostic evaluation for Thomas and scheduled her sentencing hearing for April 15.
Thomas’ husband and father were both present in the courtroom but asked to speak through their attorney. Thomas’ attorney, J.D. Herrera, said family members have been supportive and moved to Clovis from their home in Georgia to be close to her.
“It has been a very hard year for her; obviously this has been pending for a year now,” Herrera said.
Herrera said Thomas entered an Alford plea because she didn’t want to admit guilt in the death of her child but also didn’t want to face a jury trial.
“When anybody is facing a first-degree murder charge, jurors are unpredictable, and any time someone is facing 30 years of incarceration you want to look at the possible consequences. She can still be out when she is relatively young. If she were in for 30 years, she would be in for a very long time,” Herrera said. “The family is happy that the possibility of being sentenced for up to 30 years has gone away.”
Carter said prosecutors will still seek the maximum penalty of 18 years.
“We’re going to base this on the fact that a 15-month-old child died,” Carter said. “This is a child who had been taken to the hospital and had numerous medical problems over a period of time. She said she didn’t want her child to suffer anymore, she put her hand over the child’s nose and mouth, and when she realized this wasn’t something she wanted to do, she took her hand away but by that time, children’s lungs aren’t as well developed as they could be, and it appears the child suffocated.”
Thomas and her husband were both enlisted airmen at Cannon Air Force Base at the time of their son’s death; her husband is still serving.
Carter said Cannon Air Force Base’s legal personnel agreed with his office not to prosecute her under military justice. Carter said he believes her plea bargain will end further military proceedings against her other than discharge from the Air Force. Cannon Air Force Base personnel weren’t immediately available for comment.