ROSEVILLE — Nevada County resident Patricia Lee Thomas was sentenced in Placer County Superior Court Monday to five years formal probation and one year in jail after she pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment. Thomas had been facing a murder charge in connection with the 1970 death of her 4-year-old daughter Cynthia, who was found drowned in the bathtub of their Auburn home.
Thomas was arrested in January 2012 and charged with murder in the May 25, 1970, death, which was initially reported as a bathtub drowning to Auburn Police.
Information obtained from Thomas’ elder daughter, Wendy Howell Peck, initiated the reopening of the investigation. Peck told investigators she walked into the bathroom and saw her mother holding Cindy’s legs in the air in the tub.
In a conversation that was secretly recorded by investigators, Thomas allegedly told Peck that she “bumped Cindy’s head on the faucet and that Cindy became unconscious, and she left her there to drown.”
Thomas entered a no-contest plea pursuant to People v. West, meaning she did not admit her guilt. She already has served 18 months on home detention and will be credited for time served.
“This was a good resolution based on the evidence we had,” said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wood, adding,
“It’s not the resolution we could have gotten 43 years ago.”
Wood read a statement from Peck at the sentencing, which read in part, “A child should never be a victim of any abuse but to be a victim of your own mother is just another level of cruelty. Our childhoods were filled with abuse. Some children who are abused don’t get a chance to ever face their abuser because they are afraid or ashamed, or their lives are lost during another violent outburst.
“I got to face my mother, our abuser on January 13, 2012,” Peck wrote. “In the case of Cindy, she never got the chance to confront my mother because my mother killed her. But Cindy’s voice will not be silenced. I am and will always be Cynthia Louise Howell’s advocate ... My mother wanted Cindy to be forgotten about, but I refuse to let that happen.”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.