A Roy man was sentenced to serve from five years to life in prison Friday for the murder and backyard burial of his 5-year-old stepson, while his wife was sentenced to serve up to five years in prison for allowing her husband to physically abuse her five children.
James Thomas entered a guilty plea last month to the murder of Nicolas McGuire, whose small body was found wrapped inside two plastic garbage bags and buried in the Roy couple's back yard on Dec. 17.Roy police believe the boy was murdered Nov. 11 and his remains disposed of the following night.
Second District Judge Ronald O. Hyde sentenced both Thomas, 30, and his wife, Debra, 28, who entered guilty pleas in January to five child-abuse charges.
Debra Thomas was sentenced on a third-degree count, and two Class A and two Class B misdemeanor charges for allowing James Thomas to physically abuse her children. Hyde sentenced her to up to five years on the felony and three more years on the misdemeanors. He ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
James Thomas and his Ogden defense attorney, Martin Gravis, had no comment during the sentencing hearing.
But Bernard Allen, Debra Thomas' attorney, told Hyde that he thought the sentence was too harsh because his client wasn't the one who abused the children.
"This gal has attempted to maintain full-time employment," said Allen. "She has attempted to provide for her family."
Allen tried to persuade the judge that his client didn't belong in prison because he said Debra Thomas worked 10 hours a day as a waitress and she wasn't aware that the abuse was taking place back in her Roy home. Allen said James, who was unemployed, stayed home and took care of the children.
The defense attorney said that it was very troubling to him that Debra Thomas be sent to prison for abuse she didn't commit.
Weber County Attorney Reed Richards told Hyde the woman knew her husband was mistreating the children.
"It's incomprehensible to me that she wasn't aware of or didn't know what was going on," said Richards.
Debra Thomas, who is eight months pregnant, cried quietly during the brief hearing but never spoke.
Hyde said he had no alternative but to send the woman to prison because the abuse was ongoing. Hyde said that a presentence report revealed that the woman's children were abused by her former boyfriend when she and her family were living in Arizona.
"I cannot overlook that," said Hyde. He said the case was "very troubling" to him also, but that all things considered, he had to send the woman to prison.
Richards said the continuing abuse involved striking the children, not changing diapers and locking the children in a room for days at a time.
The county attorney said the autopsy report was inconclusive as to the cause of Nicolas' death.
Four other children, ranging in age from 2 to 9 years, were taken out of the home and placed in foster homes after the parents were taken into custody.
James Thomas had been originally charged with second-degree murder and desecration of a human body but agreed to enter a plea to the first-degree felony murder charge if the state would dismiss the third-degree felony count.
Debra Thomas 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 the one third-degree child-abuse charge and the four other misdemeanor counts.