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Murder charge against Noah Thomas' mother, Ashley White, reduced

Ashley White walking into court Wednesday, August 12
Ashley White walking into court Wednesday, August 12 (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

PULASKI COUNTY (WSLS 10) - A Pulaski County judge has reduced a felony murder charge against Ashley White, the mother of 5-year-old Noah Thomas.

The charge is now reduced to child abuse and neglect, which is what White was initially charged with when she was arrested in March 2015.

White and Noah's father, Paul Thomas, had returned to court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing in Pulaski County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Noah was found dead on March 26, 2015 in a septic tank near the family's home after an extensive five day search.

In court on Wednesday, information was released indicating Noah was alive when he first entered the septic tank. The medical examiner who performed Noah's autopsy testified that while it is unclear how he ended up in the septic tank, it is clear to her that he drowned there, and that hypothermia was also a contributing factor to his death.

Noah also had a few scratches that ran the length of his stomach. His toxicology report came back negative for anything in his system. Police testified when they arrived to the home after Noah was reported missing, the lid was on the septic tank he was found in.

The felony murder charge was ultimately dropped because White's lawyer argued that the Commonwealth failed to present evidence that Ashley White's initial crime of child abuse and neglect, which took place when she left Noah at home alone the morning he went missing, had any connection to his death, given that she said he was alive when she returned. Therefore, there is no probable cause to charge her with murder.

The cell phone found in Noah's pocket was determined to belong to Ashley White's aunt. She testified that she gave the phone to Noah to play with after it had been deactivated in 2014. However, the judge did not allow text messages from Ashley White's phone into evidence.

At Wednesday's conclusion in court, the judge certified just the child abuse and neglect charges for both Ashley White and Paul Thomas to the grand jury, but there is no longer a murder charge in Noah's death.

Both Thomas and White remain in jail and are being held without bond.