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Airman sentenced to 12 years in death

Ninth Judicial District Judge Joe Parker on Friday sentenced a former Cannon Air Force Base airman to 12 years in prison in connection with the December 2002 death of her 15-month-old son.

Alesia Thomas, 22, faced a maximum penalty of 18 years after entering an Alford plea — maintaining innocence of the crime while acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict — in February to the charge of child abuse resulting in death.

Thomas’ attorney Jerry Daniel Herrera, who asked the court to implement probation, said his client could be out of jail in as little as 5 1/2 to six years with time served and good behavior.

Herrera maintains his client’s innocence in an accidental death, and said the majority of evidence used against her came from un-taped interviews with U.S. Air Force personnel.

Herrera said that evidence was twisted to make Thomas look like a murderer.

“It’s disgraceful that the U.S. military and the FBI don’t tape record anything,” Herrera said. “It always boils down to a ‘he said, she said’ case. They shoulder a lot of the blame here.”

District Attorney Brett Carter asked Parker for the maximum 18-year sentence, telling the court Thomas suffocated her son because she didn’t want him to suffer anymore pain. Her son had a history of medical problems and was often taken to the hospital.

“Based on the age of the victim and the time of the offense we believe the 18 years was appropriate,” Carter said.

Carter said Parker mitigated the sentence down to 12 years because of a diagnostic evaluation from the New Mexico Department of Corrections recommending probation, a lack of criminal history, Thomas’ cooperation with authorities and her age.

Herrera said family testimony also helped reduce the sentence.

“I thought a number of her family testified very eloquently and passionately for her,” Herrera said.

As for Parker’s decision to forego probation in favor of 12 years, Herrera said: “There may have been some concern that what she did would have been perceived (in the community) as being too lenient.”