Judge told to explain ruling in case of Bolivar infant's murder
State Superior Court wants to know why a Bolivar man serving up to 30 years in prison for killing his infant daughter was prevented from telling jurors at his trial that the baby's mother was allegedly addicted to drugs while she was pregnant.
The appeals court this week ordered Westmoreland County Senior Judge John Blahovec to issue an opinion to explain his rulings on the issue, both before and during the 2013 murder trial of Clayton Mibroda.
Mibroda, 27, was convicted of third-degree murder in the death of his 20-day-old daughter, Natalee. The defense contended the baby was born addicted to drugs.
In an appeal, Mibroda contends that Blahovec erred when he barred that testimony.
Last summer, Blahovec denied Mibroda's appeal.
A three-judge panel of Superior Court said it needs more information to rule on the appeal.
In a six-page ruling, the court noted, Blahovec addressed two other issues in his opinion but failed to write about the drug issue.
Blahovec was directed to submit his opinion on that issue within 30 days to the Superior Court, which retained jurisdiction of the case.
“We felt it is a very important issue as to the culpability in the case,” said defense attorney Joseph Ryan. “It limited Mr. Mibroda's ability to present a defense.”
Ryan did not represent Mibroda during the trial. Public Defender Wayne McGrew served as his trial attorney.
McGrew argued at trial that the child's mother, Kayla Lichtenfels, used drugs while pregnant.
During an appeal hearing last summer, McGrew said he attempted to have child welfare caseworkers testify about the mother and baby's drug issues, but Blahovec barred that evidence.
“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 last year.
The prosecution contended that Natalee died on Dec. 27, 2011, from extensive blunt-force trauma injuries to the head and chest. The infant suffered a fractured clavicle, bleeding in the brain and cuts to her mouth indicating someone had shoved in a bottle, pacifier or other object, according to trial testimony.
Lichtenfels testified that when she returned to the home she shared with Mibroda, he refused to give her the baby. The infant later was found unresponsive and not breathing.
Assistant District Attorney Barbara Jollie, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Confederate memorabilia gets favorable attention at Westmoreland Fair
- Franklin Regional stabbing suspect Hribal to head to adult prison after Oct. 1
- Westmoreland Fair queen eyes veterinary career
- PennDOT outlines Route 119 plan
- Painter sues Westmoreland County commissioner over payment
- Derry Area teachers near contract
- Scottdale man charged in robbery at car wash
- Megan’s List offender charged with assault on 10-year-old Latrobe girl
- Westmoreland Manor fined $4,250 by state
- 10-year-old Blairsville violinist’s expulsion over knife challenged
- Ligonier men claim arrests violated rights