Expert says accident impossible in Bolivar baby death

Renatta Signorini
| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Clayton Daniel Mibroda glanced at a photograph of his 20-day-old daughter's body Wednesday as it was displayed for a jury deciding his fate.

Mibroda alternated between looking at 14 photos of Natalie Kay Mibroda on an autopsy table and staring at the defense table while a medical examiner testified about the 5-pound premature girl's extensive, “uncommon” injuries.

“There's too many different injuries ... it's unreasonable, impossible for it to be an accident,” said Todd Luckasevic, a forensic pathologist and associate medical examiner with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office.

Luckasevic's testimony came on the second day of trial for Mibroda, 26, of Bolivar, who is charged with homicide.

Luckasevic said the girl died from blunt-force trauma to the head and chest. Mibroda changed his story several times about how the baby was hurt, investigators said.

On Dec. 27, 2011, Janet Lichtenfels, the baby's great-grandmother, dialed 911 after the child became unresponsive at the mobile home Mibroda shared with Natalie's mother, Kayla Lichtenfels. Mibroda had been alone with the baby until Kayla arrived from a doctor's appointment and summoned her grandmother, witnesses said.

Paramedics testified the baby was not breathing and did not have a pulse that afternoon when they arrived. Natalie was pronounced dead at Indiana Regional Medical Center.

Luckasevic testified the girl's injuries were “significant.” Photographs showed bruises on her left eye, above and below the right eye, on her shoulder and on her tongue — an injury Luckasevic had never seen before. He has performed 2,200 autopsies.

One picture showed extensive bleeding in the girl's brain, a result of some kind of blunt impact or “shaking,” Luckasevic said.

“It has to be a forceful shaking, when the head's snapping against the chest, snapping against the back,” he said.

An abrasion below the girl's lower lip could have been caused by a pacifier or bottle or by someone forcefully putting something in her mouth. Natalie's collarbone was fractured, an “uncommon” injury, Luckasevic testified.

The only injury that appeared to be more than three days old was a tear underneath the upper lip, which could have been caused by a person shoving something in the girl's mouth. “This hole should not be here,” Luckasevic said.

In a photo of Mibroda holding Natalie, his hand nearly spans the length of the infant's body. An 11-year-old relative of Mibroda's testified that she saw him sometimes put his fingers in Natalie's mouth.

Dr. Mary Carrasco testified that it is the force that matters in the mouth injury, not the size of a person inflicting it. Carrasco is the director of A Child's Place at Mercy within Pittsburgh Mercy Health System.

Natalie appeared to be fine in the weeks before her death, a pediatrician testified.

Dr. Stacey Robertson testified she prescribed medication to treat Kayla Lichtenfels for post-partum depression but the mother presented no danger to Natalie or the couple's other child, a son who was 10 months old at the time.

“She was very concerned about getting help so she would be able to take care of the children adequately,” Robertson said.

Mibroda told investigators a variety of stories explaining how Natalie was injured. Mibroda at first said he was feeding his daughter when she started to spit up and turn blue and his son later pulled the girl off a couch, Trooper Jason Morgan testified.

At one point, Mibroda claimed the girl stopped breathing and he shook her several times “to give it what he called ‘a jolt,'” Morgan testified.

Finally, Mibroda said he tripped over a bucket, kicked the girl and then fell on her, Morgan said. Troopers found that story “inconceivable.”

During his interview, Mibroda became frustrated, especially at one point when he mentioned Lichtenfels.

“Is it possible that he was covering for Kayla?” Public Defender Wayne McGrew asked.

Considering the totality of the circumstances, no, Morgan replied.

“There's no question that this child was the victim of child abuse and neglect,” Carrasco told jurors.

The trial resumes Thursday morning before Judge John E. Blahovec.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.

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