Thomas and White
Paul Thomas and Ashley White were accused of the abuse and neglect of five-year-old Noah Virginia State Police

The father of a five-year-old boy who was found dead in a septic tank has been sentenced to 15-months' imprisonment for his child's abuse and neglect. On Wednesday 9 March Paul Raymond Thomas, 32, from Dublin, Virginia, was handed the term after being charged with two felony counts of child abuse and neglect.

The court had heard how Thomas had left his two children at home alone while his girlfriend, Ashley White, took him to work on 22 March 2015. White says when she returned home she went to sleep and when she awoke Noah had disappeared.

Police in Pulaski County quickly began a search for the child, with local media joining in publicising his disappearance, but his body was found four days later in a septic tank near his home. The case made national headlines and White originally a felony charge of the murder of Noah, who died of hypothermia.

Noah Thomas
Noah Thomas was found dead in a septic tank Virginia State Police

After serving almost a year in prison, Thomas is due to be released in just a few months and he told Judge Bradley Finch at his hearing that he has lost everything, including his home, job and girlfriend since the horrific incident, and will be "starting from scratch" when released.

During the sentencing, he admitted responsibility for his actions and said the decision to leave Noah and his sister at home alone was: "the worst decision I ever made in my life," according to the Roanoke Times.

His lawyer Lindsay Honeycutt said that her client had already been convicted by a "pitchfork mentality" in the local community by those unaware of the full facts of the case. Honeycutt added that he has heard comments about how he deserved the death penalty.

Thomas entered what is known as an Alford plea during his trial whereby he does not admit to the crime but does admit that the evidence the prosecution has would likely persuade a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty.

Thomas was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the first charge with one year and three months to serve and five years probation. For the second charge he was also sentenced to five years. But both of the five year sentences were suspended and he will be subject to ten years probation.

White was convicted in February of three felony counts of abuse and neglect. She is scheduled to be sentenced 16 May.