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Indiana County man pleads guilty to child endangerment

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

An Indiana County man who investigators said was playing video games while his 13-month-old son drowned in a bathtub has pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Wesley Allen Thomas, 25, entered a guilty plea last week to three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. He is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 8.

The three counts were reduced from felonies as part of a plea agreement that calls for Thomas to testify against his wife, who faces homicide and related charges in Ryden Thomas' death, according to District Attorney Patrick Dougherty.

Police contend that on Feb. 2 Tonya Nicole Thomas, 26, was bathing their three children at the family's White Township home when she asked Wesley Thomas to listen for them from another room while she allegedly went downstairs, leaving them unsupervised. The children were 3, 2 and 13 months old.

Tonya Thomas returned to the bathroom and found Ryden facedown in the tub, police said. Both parents were charged Feb. 19.

Wesley Thomas was jailed for about three months before his $50,000 bond was changed to unsecured, permitting his release, according to online court records. He can have supervised visits with the children.

District Judge Susanne Steffee dismissed homicide and aggravated assault charges against Tonya Thomas following a preliminary hearing in May, citing insufficient evidence.

The same charges were refiled against Tonya Thomas about a week later. New evidence was presented during her preliminary hearing in August, and Steffee ordered all charges held for court.

Tonya Thomas's defense attorney has called the death an accident.

She is charged with homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and three counts of endangering the welfare of children. Prosecutors are seeking a conviction on third-degree homicide or involuntary manslaughter. No action is scheduled in her case.

Tonya Thomas is free on $250,000 unsecured bond and is caring for a newborn under the supervision of Thomas' mother. The two other children are in foster care.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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