HAMPTON, Va. — Two years after the death of 2-year-old Noah Tomlin, his mother, Julia Tomlin acknowledged in court that she killed him.
Tomlin pleaded guilty to the charges of Second Degree Murder, Felony Child Neglect and Concealing a Dead Body on Tuesday.
The prosecution will not move ahead with several other child neglect charges against Tomlin.
Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney Anton Bell explained it’s not because of a plea agreement, but because of a lack of case law.
Tomlin reported Noah missing on June 24, 2019, and on July 3 of that year, police found his body at the Hampton Steam Plant.
When police found his remains, they said they were in an "advanced state" of decomposition. The police officer who found his body had to leave the scene, it was so graphic.
“It’s hard to stomach," Bell added. “We’re talking about a 2-year-old taken away from someone who was supposed to be their protector, instead they were their predator.”
After an autopsy, the medical examiner found that Noah had fractures to his skull that likely caused his death. Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney Anton Bell said the evidence of child abuse was almost to the level of "torture."
"The type of injury this child suffered was as if a child had fallen several stories," Bell said. "His abuse was of such a nature that his bones stopped growing. There was evidence of that."
The medical examiner determined Noah died because of blunt force trauma and battered child syndrome.
In court Tuesday, Bell painted a picture of abuse that Noah faced long before he died.
“We do know, based on the science, is that there were healed injuries of fractures to his skull," Bell said.
Tomlin’s sister-in-law, Theresa, claimed that was because Noah had autism, "he was throwing himself onto the furniture. Every time he went to bed, he would hit his head and his part of himself on the side of the crib.”
She made that claim, even though Tomlin pleaded guilty.
"Maybe some people are just afraid. She’s so terrified because the whole nation is after her," said Theresa Tomlin.
In October 2019, police put out warrants for Tomlin's arrest.
In a preliminary hearing in December 2019, Tomlin testified that she had used heroin the night before Noah disappeared. Police investigators presented evidence of bloodstains that had been cleaned off the walls of her home.
In July 2020, Tomlin was ruled fit to stand trial.
Tomlin's fate is in the judge's hands. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 18, 2022. The maximum punishment for Tomlin is 55 years.
As for the pleas, Noah’s relatives told 13News Now they are a step toward accountability.
“It’s the beginning. It’s the beginning. It’s just the start," said Noah's sister, Leanna Jones.
“How can you get justice? He can never come back," said Vincent Jones, the grandfather. "Justice would be if he was alive. But since that can’t happen, I guess this is the best we’ve got."
Both Leanna and Vincent only got to meet with Noah once in 2019.
The Joneses' hope for the future is that child welfare laws improve. They and Bell believe "the system failed the child" in this instance.