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New court date in 1970 Auburn bathtub-drowning murder case

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The 67-year-old murder suspect in what Auburn authorities allege was a deliberate bathtub drowning of her daughter 43 years ago is back in court - and on court-ordered home arrest - after surgery.

According to court records, Patricia Lee Thomas of Grass Valley was allowed to remove her electronic-monitoring ankle bracelet for about a week in late March as she underwent surgery. Her time off the monitor was extended after Thomas’ husband reported she was not doing well after the surgery. She was reported by the Placer County Probation Department to be back on the monitor by March 29.

Thomas’ next court date is April 30 in North Auburn for an early status conference.

Thomas can only leave her home for court dates, medical appointments, church or what are determined to be necessary outings by the court.

Thomas is charged with murder in the death 4-year-old Cindy Howell on May 25, 1970, in their Auburn home’s bathtub. Authorities questioned aspects of the death at the time but a cold case investigation in 2011 based on the memories of Howell’s other daughter sparked a reopening of the Auburn Police probe.

Thomas was released from Placer County Jail after being incarcerated for 41 days and has been on the electronic monitoring system since Feb. 29, 2012.