Kash Thomas and his twin brother faced a rough future from the day they were born prematurely on Christmas Eve in 2014.
They were medically fragile and had trouble swallowing formula. They spent several months in a hospital before being discharged into the care of their mother, Rebecca Thomas.
Less than two years later, Kash Thomas, 22 months, was dead. An initial assessment by doctors who treated the toddler listed his cause of death as strangulation, according to a report from Sacramento County Child Protective Services. A second-degree burn, possibly caused by a cigarette, was found on the bottom of his foot, the report said.
Rebecca Thomas, 34, and boyfriend Taylor Montgomery-Gutzman, 23, are charged with murder. They are scheduled to make their next appearance in Sacramento Superior Court on Wednesday.
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The couple were arrested and booked into the Sacramento Main Jail on Nov. 23 and are ineligible for bail. Despite the charges, a weeping Thomas maintained her innocence in the death of the toddler during a jailhouse interview last month.
“I will say that I am not guilty on these charges,” she said. “I love my children.”
Thomas refused to answer additional questions. Montgomery-Gutzman denied a request for an interview.
CPS records obtained by The Sacramento Bee say that when paramedics showed up at Thomas’ Citrus Heights apartment in October, they found Kash Thomas bleeding from the mouth, with severe bruising to the side of his face.
They had been summoned to the apartment in the 8000 block of Auburn Boulevard by a caller who said a child was not breathing. They entered the apartment and attempted to revive him, performing CPR on his body. The toddler was taken to a local hospital but later was pronounced dead.
Prosecutors allege that the two assaulted the 22-month-old boy using great force. They also charged the pair with child endangerment.
The mother faces an additional count of child endangerment for Kash’s twin brother, whose whereabouts The Bee could not determine.
CPS files described the children as medically fragile. They were born prematurely at 32 weeks, and both suffered from a narrow esophagus that made it difficult to eat. They were additionally diagnosed with pharyngomalacia, a respiratory problem.
Thomas brought the children home from an intensive care nursery in early April 2015. Just three days later, CPS filed allegations that she was not adequately caring for them.
The report – obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a Public Records Act request – stated that both children had severe medical complications which required they be fed following very specific procedures, including the use of a feeding tube in a calm setting. A nurse observed Thomas going against those recommendations, bottle feeding one of the twins while riding in a hospital elevator.
Thomas was there because the other twin had been rushed to the hospital earlier in the day after experiencing breathing problems and appearing pale. Medical personnel found baby formula in the back of that twin’s throat, though it was unclear whether Thomas had strayed from the recommended feeding procedures or if it was a result of the tube feeding, the CPS file said. A bottle was later found in the infant’s crib.
All four of Thomas’ children were placed into protective custody in that incident and Thomas was ordered to participate in counseling and parenting classes, as well as to continue education about using the gastrostomy tube to feed the twins, according to a summary of services provided by CPS to the family. She regained custody of the toddlers in May 2016.
It wasn’t the first time CPS had interacted with Thomas. The Bee obtained nine CPS reports dating back to 2009. Other referrals before and after 2009 are referenced in the CPS records but were not included in documents released to The Sacramento Bee.
The reports mention four children, including the twins and two older siblings.
One of the earliest reports dates back to August 2010. CPS received claims that Thomas’ home was littered with straws and pieces of foil covered with a black substance – paraphernalia from heroin use. A child living there was described as withdrawn and was reportedly left unsupervised most of the time.
A CPS social worker found the claims to be true. Thomas agreed to perform drug testing and to participate in drug intervention and substance abuse treatment, but was later dropped from the programs after failing to cooperate, according to supplementary reports. The child mentioned in the report – who is not identified – was placed with alternate caregivers who told caseworkers that they would seek guardianship.
Accusations of general neglect were upheld again in a report filed on Feb. 15, 2012, when CPS was notified that Thomas had tested positive for THC while in the delivery room to have a baby. The caseworker was told she tested positive for the drug every time during prenatal care and additionally tested positive for methamphetamine, opiates, and methadone 7 months before. At the time of the report, Thomas said she smoked marijuana to treat nausea and had a medical marijuana card. The report stated that the card was issued a week before.
Thomas admitted to a history of heroin use, which had resulted in CPS taking a child from her custody two years earlier and placing it with someone she knew, the report indicates. Four of the nine reports released to The Bee were filed after the Dec. 24, 2014, birth of the twins.
Efforts to reach friends and family members of Montgomery-Gutzman and Thomas have been mostly unsuccessful. The rundown apartment at the end of the 8000 block of Auburn Boulevard where Thomas lived has been cleared of her belongings and now hosts a new family.
A woman who answered the door of a large Carmichael home listed in court documents as the residence for Montgomery-Gutzman said she did not wish to comment on the case. The Bee has not been able to reach friends or family of Thomas.
A woman who identified herself as Brenda Griffin, 56, contacted The Bee on Jan. 10 and said her son was the father of the twin boys. Griffin, a Clinton, Iowa, resident, found out about the toddler’s death after discovering a news article about Thomas’ arrest.
Her son, Scott Plots, 21, briefly dated Thomas sometime in 2013 and 2014 while visiting his father in California, she said. He returned to Iowa before the twins were born but occasionally received photographs of the two boys.
“He’s very upset about it, to find out about it the way he did,” Griffin said.
She and her son were searching for answers regarding Kash’s death and hoped to gain custody of the surviving twin at the time. They did not know where he was or what his health was like. Griffin said she knew very little about the boy’s previous medical history, Thomas or her family.
In a second interview with Griffin at the end of the month, she said that Thomas’ ex-boyfriend was also fighting for custody of the surviving twin, claiming to be the father of the child. Plots was told to take a paternity test, Griffin said.
“We know he is the father,” she said.