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Bolivar man seeks to have conviction overturned

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The attorney for a Bolivar man who is serving up to 30 years in prison for killing his baby said evidence that the child's mother was a drug user could have helped him win an acquittal during his murder trial.

Clayton Mibroda, 26, contends that his conviction on a third-degree murder charge should be overturned based on errors made during his trial.

The defense said the key mistake was that Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec refused to allow the defense to introduce evidence that 20-day-old Natalee Kay Mibroda was born addicted to drugs.

The girl's mother, Kayla Lichtenfels, was using drugs while pregnant, defense attorney Joe Ryan said in court on Monday.

Ryan replaced Public Defender Wayne McGrew as Mibroda's defense lawyer. The defense contends McGrew provided an inadequate defense during a three-day trial in January.

McGrew, who represented Mibroda at the trial, testified that he attempted to have child welfare caseworkers testify about the mother and baby's drug issues, but that evidence was barred by Blahovec.

“The whole strategy was that Kayla was responsible for the death of the child and that started prior to her birth by having drugs in her system. That set the whole stage,” McGrew testified.

Prosecutors said the newborn died on Dec. 27, 2011, from extensive blunt-force trauma injuries to the head and chest. The baby 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 trial testimony.

During the trial, Lichtenfels testified that she visited a doctor on the morning that her daughter died to be treated for postpartum depression. When she returned to the home she shared with Mibroda, he refused to give her the baby, she testified.

The newborn eventually was found unresponsive and not breathing.

At the trial, Mibroda testified that he saw Lichtenfels shaking the baby, but he told investigators that he dropped the child.

The defense wants a new trial because McGrew failed to ask that a series of statements Mibroda gave to police before his arrest be excluded from the trial.

In addition, the defense contends a McGrew erred by not asking that jurors be selected from another county, Ryan said.

Blahovec said he will make a ruling this year once attorneys submit written arguments.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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