Auburn drowning death defendant goes home to Grass Valley

GPS will help authorities keep tabs on Patricia Thomas as court proceeding continue
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn drowning-death murder defendant Patricia Thomas was allowed to leave Placer County Jail on Tuesday and return home after more than a month behind bars. Thomas, 66, was arrested Jan. 18 and charged with murder in the May 25, 1970, death of her 4-year-old daughter, Cindy. Judge Larry Gaddis ordered authorities Tuesday to release Thomas but is requiring home confinement and the attachment of a global positioning system device to track her movements. Prosecutor Jeff Wood said the character of the crime Thomas is accused of demanded that bail be set at no less than $250,000. But Gaddis said that factors requiring bail, including the possibility of Thomas being a flight risk or a danger to others, outweighed the severity of the murder charge. Thomas is accused of murder in the drowning death of her daughter at their then-Auburn home. Auburn Police, acting on statements by another daughter this January, started a “cold case” investigation that ended with a single murder charge against Thomas. Tuesday’s hearing at the jail courtroom in North Auburn provided a glimpse into a possible defense on the murder charge. Defense Attorney Thomas Leupp submitted a statement of fact to Gaddis that Wood described as “overwrought and inappropriate.” The prosecutor said that an important error in the defense statement was that the daughter who came to police with her version of what she saw the night of May 25, 1970, was suffering from dementia. Wood said that the woman – now 47 – had been examined for dementia and found to not have it. “What she was suffering from – and still does – is post traumatic stress disorder from what she saw 42 years ago,” Wood said. The surviving daughter told investigators that she had walked into the bathroom and saw her mother holding Cindy’s legs in the air in the tub. Thomas yelled at her to leave, she told authorities, according to court documents. Wood said that the prosecution was also objecting to the defense contention that there was no admission by Thomas. Investigators say in court filings that a confession came in January when Thomas told her daughter in a conversation recorded by investigators that Cindy hit her head on a faucet and Thomas left her there. But Leupp said that Thomas never said that she purposely bumped Cindy’s head and it didn’t cross her mind as she left the room that her daughter would drown. “In hindsight (her regret) is that she didn’t run as quickly as she should have (after she later learned Cindy was unconscious in the tub),” Leupp said. In his request for a release without bail, Leupp said Thomas suffered from a variety of physical problems that would force her to remain in the area. Thomas has a pacemaker and is a lung-transplant recipient, he said. “While she’s certainly getting quality medical care in jail, she’s tied to the community because she is taking a number of medications,” Leupp said. “It is very unlikely that she would be able to leave the area.” Thomas will be back in court for another hearing March 20.