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Defendant shifts suspicion to mother as testimony continues in death of Bolivar baby

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Two stories emerged Thursday in the death of 20-day-old Natalee Kay Mibroda, who died from blunt-force trauma to the head and chest.

The girl's father, Clayton Daniel Mibroda, 26, testified in his own defense that, while standing outside of the Bolivar mobile home he shared with the girl's mother, Kayla Lichtenfels, “I had heard Kayla start to get louder with Natalee and she started calling Natalee an (expletive) little bitch.”

Looking inside, he saw Lichtenfels kneeling on the floor with her hands wrapped around Natalee's head, shaking her, he testified. Mibroda demonstrated for a jury of six men and six women on public defender Wayne McGrew the placement of Lichtenfels' hands during the third day of testimony before Westmoreland County Judge John E. Blahovec.

“She was holding Natalee up in the air right in front of her chest,” Mibroda testified calmly. “She threw her into the car seat. I said ‘What the hell are you doing?' She stood up and said ‘You (expletive) take care of her.'”

The jury of six men and six women on Friday will begin sorting through conflicting accounts of the circumstances surrounding Natalee's death on Dec. 27, 2011. Mibroda was charged with homicide after police said he changed his story several times.

A medical examiner who conducted an autopsy testified Wednesday for the prosecution that Natalee died from blunt-force trauma to the head and chest and had extensive, “uncommon” injuries that could not be accidental, including a large amount of bleeding on her brain. The prosecution rested its case Thursday morning. Defense testimony concluded at 2:15 p.m.

Lichtenfels testified Tuesday that Mibroda was feeding the girl in a bedroom when he refused to give the baby to Lichtenfels after she returned home from a doctor's appointment. Lichtenfels told the jury that she enlisted the help of her grandmother, who later called 911 after Natalee became unresponsive and displayed seizure-like activity. Mibroda gave the girl CPR until paramedics arrived, according to testimony.

The girl was pronounced dead at Indiana Regional Medical Center.

Mibroda testified that he was “protecting my children's mother” during interviews with police when he gave several scenarios, including accidentally dropping Natalee, according to testimony.

“(Lichtenfels) was very paranoid, scared,” Mibroda testified. “I told her there would be nothing to worry about, that I would take care of everything and I would protect her.”

They also have a 1-year-old son who was 10 months old at the time. Mibroda testified that he began thinking more clearly after the shock of his daughter's death wore off and he was telling the “absolute truth” on the witness stand Thursday.

He cried briefly and said he loved his children “with all my heart” and testified that he “never” intentionally hurt them.

Mibroda testified that he was having trouble bonding with Natalee and called Lichtenfels “detached” with their daughter.

“She always tried pawning Natalee off on other people,” he testified.

Both children stayed with Mibroda's mother, Vicki Fetterman, for a few days after the girl's birth. Fetterman testified that Lichtenfels didn't kiss her daughter goodbye when she dropped them off.

In a phone call on the morning of Dec. 27, 2011, Lichtenfels asked Fetterman to watch both children because she had been diagnosed with post-partum depression and was seeking treatment.

During that call, Fetterman testified that Lichtenfels said she “had to put them some place safe before I hurt them.”

Fetterman has custody of the 1-year-old.

Lichtenfels' doctor testified Wednesday that she didn't think the mother was a danger to the children after an appointment that morning, when she prescribed medication and suggested treatment.

In the hours and day after the baby's death, Mibroda and Lichtenfels visited the Seward home of friend David Hicks Jr. and the pair sought advice from him.

Hicks recalled Lichtenfels suggesting they “run,” while Mibroda comforted her and said he would “take care of everything.”

“She was really stressed out, she seemed lost, completely lost in what was going on,” Hicks testified.

Dr. Eric Vey, a forensic pathologist with the Erie County Coroner's office, testified that Mibroda died as a result of “abusive head trauma” after reviewing medical records and the report of an Allegheny County medical examiner.

He said the baby likely was injured a few hours before she showed seizure-like activity as blood accumulated in her brain.

“This is not an instantaneous event,” Vey testified. “This is not going to take place over the course of seconds or minutes,” but rather in a progressive fashion.

Attorneys are expected to make closing arguments Friday morning before the case is handed over to the jury.

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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