Wiping tears from his eyes, James Thomas entered a guilty plea Friday to a murder charge in connection with the death and burial of his 5-year-old stepson.
His wife, Debra Thomas, then went before 2nd District Judge Ronald O. Hyde and entered five guilty pleas to felony and misdemeanor child abuse charges.James Thomas, 30, had been charged with second-degree murder and third-degree felony desecration of a human body, but in exchange for his guilty plea to the murder charge, the state agreed to dismiss the desecration of a human body charge. He could be sentenced to serve from five years to life in prison.
Debra Thomas, 28, had been charged with second-degree child abuse and desecration of a human body, but in exchange for her guilty plea, the charges were amended to one third-degree felony, two class A misdemeanor and two class B misdemeanor counts of child abuse. She could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.
Judge Hyde set sentencing for Feb. 15.
The couple was arrested Dec. 17 after Roy police dug up the remains of Nicolas McGuire in the Roy couple's back yard. The were booked into the Weber County Jail in lieu of a $35,000 bond each.
Four other children, ranging in age from 2to 9 years old, were taken out of the home and placed in foster homes.
Weber County Attorney Reed Richards said that under the plea bargain, additional charges of child abuse against James Thomas would not be filed. Richards said Thomas was abusing all five children in the home and that he eventually killed Nicolas.
Richards said the abuse involved striking the children, not changing diapers and locking the children in rooms for days. He said that Debra Thomas never abused her children but that she was charged with child abuse for allowing the abuse to occur. Also, the county attorney said, Nicolas had been abused most of his life. Debra Thomas' former boyfriend, Stan Waterman, is serving time in an Arizona prison for abusing the child.
Richards said that James Thomas had been abusing Nicolas and the four other children since the couple moved to Utah about seven months ago. He said the juvenile court would have to decide the fate of the children and Debra Thomas' unborn baby. She is seven months pregnant.
Martin Gravis, James Thomas' defense attorney, said outside the courtroom that his client admitted to him that he had struck the boy on Nov. 11 but that he didn't kill him.
"He (James) told me he woke up and found Nicolas not breathing and he attempted CPR," said Gravis.
Gravis said that according to police reports, James and Debra Thomas waited until the night of Nov. 12 to bury the boy in their back yard.
Bernie Allen, Debra Thomas' defense attorney, said there was no doubt that his client helped bury her son, but he pointed out that Debra Thomas never abused her children.
"She didn't actually do the abuse," said Allen. "She should have stopped it from happening."
The county attorney said the autopsy report was inconclusive as to the cause of Nicolas' death. He said the boy could have died from strangulation, arrhythmia or child abuse syndrome.