WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. - A Westmoreland County jury convicted a Bolivar man of third-degree murder, but found him not guilty of first-degree murder, in the death of his 20-day-old daughter in December 2011.
Clayton Daniel Mibroda, 26, will face a maximum sentence of 20-40 years when he is sentenced by Westmoreland County Judge John E. Blahovec for the murder of Natalee Kay Mibroda.
The verdict, returned Friday afternoon, concluded a four-day trial where jurors viewed 14 autopsy photos of the infant and heard testimony from her parents, who blamed each other for her death. The jury deliberated from 11:25 a.m. until about 4 p.m.
Many of Mibroda’s family members who were at the courthouse Friday left in tears. They said they were surprised by the verdict.
“He would never hurt a child. As a boy growing up he was a little rambunctious, but he would never hurt anybody,” Mibroda’s father, Tim Mibroda, said. “I’m just devastated right now.”
Natalee was 20 days old when she died of blunt-force trauma to the head and chest on Dec. 27, 2011. Paramedics said the baby was not breathing when they got to the family‘s mobile home in Bolivar that afternoon.
The jury of six men and six women returned the verdict after about five hours of deliberations.
They had the option of convicting Mibroda of first- or third-degree homicide or involuntary manslaughter. Attorneys presented closing arguments Friday morning.
Public defender Wayne McGrew illustrated the possibility of the girl‘s mother harming Natalee with the aid of a hand-drawn timeline.
“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 mother Kayla Lichtenfels didn‘t appear to be a danger to Natalee or the pair‘s son, who was 10 months old at the time. The toddler now lives with Mibroda‘s mother.
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.”
Lichtenfels said she saw a doctor on the morning of Dec. 27, 2011, when she received medication for post-partum depression.
Lichtenfels returned home and asked Mibroda for the baby so she could give her a bottle, the mother testified.
But Mibroda told her to leave, Lichtenfels said.
Mibroda‘s claimed Lichtenfels shook the baby after returning home.
Natalee died from blunt-force trauma to the head and chest. She 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.
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,” Luckasevic said.
Natalee was pronounced dead at 2 p.m. at Indiana Regional Medical Center.
Mibroda was taken back to the Westmoreland County Prison where he will remain until he’s sentenced in about 90 days.
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.
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