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Westmoreland father found guilty in baby's death

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 4:22 p.m.

A Bolivar man let out a deep breath Friday after hearing a jury find him not guilty of first-degree homicide in his 20-day-old daughter's death.

Clayton Daniel Mibroda, 26, stood stoically as the group convicted him of third-degree murder on the fourth day of trial.

Natalee Kay Mibroda died Dec. 27, 2011, as a result of extensive injuries from blunt-force trauma to the head and chest.

Mibroda was remanded to the Westmoreland Country Prison and will face a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years. Judge John Blahovec will sentence him in three months.

Natalee's mother, Kayla Lichtenfels, and her family left without commenting to reporters. The jury deliberated for 4 12 hours Friday after lawyers made closing arguments Friday morning.

The jury asked the judge to define malice at 3:50 p.m. and returned the verdict about 15 minutes later.

Mibroda's family wept in the courtroom as he was escorted out by deputies, concluding the four-day trial in which jurors viewed 14 autopsy photos of the infant and heard testimony from Natalee's parents, who blamed each other for her murder.

Mibroda's father, Tim Mibroda, called the verdict a “travesty” and said the family was “surprised.” He thinks Lichtenfels should face charges in the girl's death.

“I'm not exonerating Clayton,” Tim Mibroda said, saying he thinks his son should've gotten Natalee out of the situation. “He's not guilty of murder. He would never hurt a child.”

Clayton Mibroda's mother, Vicki Fetterman, has custody of the pair's 1-year-old son, who was 10 months old at the time of the death.

“I don't want to see that baby going back to the mother,” Tim Mibroda said.

Jurors had the option of acquitting Mibroda or convicting him of first- or third-degree homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

Lichtenfels testified Tuesday that she visited a doctor on the morning of Dec. 27, 2011, for treatment of postpartum depression. After returning to the pair's shared Bolivar home, Mibroda refused to give her the baby, she testified.

Lichtenfels enlisted the help of her grandmother in retrieving Natalee, who was found to be unresponsive and not breathing, according to testimony. Mibroda testified that he saw Lichtenfels shaking the baby.

Natalee was pronounced dead at Indiana Regional Medical Center. She weighed 5 pounds.

Public Defender Wayne McGrew in closing arguments illustrated the possibility of the girl's mother harming Natalee with the aid of a hand-drawn time line.

“They want you to believe he's a liar,” McGrew argued. “They have presented no evidence to you that says Clayton caused any injury to Natalee.”

Assistant District Attorney Barbara Jollie reminded the jury of a doctor's testimony that Lichtenfels didn't appear to be a danger to Natalee or the pair's son.According to testimony, Mibroda changed his story several times for investigators, saying he accidentally dropped Natalee.

He testified Thursday that he was covering for Lichtenfels.

Jollie said Mibroda's various explanations of how Natalee was fatally injured defy logic.

The prosecutor said Mibroda snapped while he was alone with the fussy infant, who was born premature.

“His story is just not reasonable,” Jollie argued.

“He decides to make that crying stop once and for all.”

Natalee suffered a fractured clavicle, bleeding in her brain and cuts to her mouth that indicated someone had shoved a bottle, pacifier or another object into her mouth, according to testimony.

“There‘s too many different injuries ... it‘s unreasonable, impossible for it to be an accident,” Dr. Todd Luckasevic, a forensic pathologist with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner‘s office, testified Wednesday, calling the girl's injuries “significant.”

Photographs showed bruises on her left eye, above and below the right eye, on her shoulder and on her tongue — an injury Luckasevic said he had never seen before.

He has performed 2,200 autopsies.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com

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