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New Durham woman convicted of starving child given 10-30 year prison sentence Monday

By John Quinn
Union Leader Correspondent

July 01. 2013 1:33PM
New Durham resident Christina Thomas spoke only to Attorney Steven Keable during her sentencing hearing in Strafford County Superior Court in Dover Monday. She will serve 10-30 years in prison for withholding food from a boy for several years. (John Quinn/Union Leader)

DOVER – Superior Judge John Lewis felt it was necessary to impose the maximum sentence on Christina Thomas in order to give her structure and time to find the motivation to improve her life.

Thomas, 34, of 214 Birch Hill Road in New Durham, has been held in jail since a jury found her guilty in February of "deliberate" first-degree assault for withholding food from a boy, who is developmentally delayed - between 2006 and 2010.

The boy, who is now 9, is being cared for by foster parents who said he has shown dramatic improvement, but will always be affected by the experience.

Assistant County Attorney Alysia Cassotis said the state recommended the maximum sentence, which included the conditions she have no contact with the boy or his family, as Thomas deliberately targeted the boy.

"This is starving a child over a series of years," Cassotis said, adding when the boy was 6½ and weighed as much as a 10-month old.

"It is time she's held responsible for what she's done with this child," Cassotis said, adding Thomas must be punished and rehabilitated.

As a jury already convicted Thomas, Lewis said the sentencing hearing was not the time or the place to re-try the case. He was looking only at whether Thomas could offer any mitigating factors in the case.

"I'm asking hard questions, but this is the time to have a discussion with me," Lewis said.

Attorney Steven Keable - who represented Thomas - argued there were factors as she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse as a child, was institutionalized as a teen, became a mother at 15, used drugs and alcohol. He added this long history of issues created a personality disorder that should be taken under consideration.

Keable read a letter Thomas wrote for the hearing, which asked the court to be lenient.

"I have remorse for some things I have done," Keable read, adding Thomas maintains her innocence.

Keable argued a sentence of 2½ to 10 years would be sufficiently stringent, but give her an opportunity to stay connected to her six biological children.

"My children are my life," Keable read.

Lewis said he felt the sentence in the case must be harsh enough to punish Thomas while deterring others. He added it also provides a controlled environment to allow Thomas to seek rehabilitation.

"You need structure," Lewis said, citing her history of resisting authority and manipulating others.

Lewis encouraged Thomas to take advantage of the opportunities, take responsibility and stay in touch with her children.

"It's not the end of the world if you're 44 when you get out," Lewis said, adding she can still have a relationship with her children while in prison.

Lewis said the pre-sentencing investigation stresses that Thomas, who underwent two psychiatric evaluations as part of the trial, must find motivation to improve.

"It's entirely up to you," Lewis said.

Following the sentencing, Thomas entered a not-guilty plea to two new charges - falsifying physical evidence and perjury - in connection with her three-week trial that ended Feb. 21.

Falsifying physical evidence and perjury are a Class B Felonies, which could each result in 3½ to 7 years in jail and a $2,000 fine, if convicted.

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