Graphic testimony in mutilation trial

August 11, 2009 3:30:46 PM PDT
It was an emotional day on the stand in the trial of a woman accused of mutilating her infant son. Prosecutors accuse Katherine Nadal of cutting off her son's genitals inside her Webster apartment back in 2007. She claims the family dog did it.

On Tuesday, two paramedics who responded to the scene talked about what they saw, as did a woman who says she was out with Nadal the night before the infant was mutilated.

Paramedics see the worst trauma can do, but the memory of a five-week-old infant who had been mutilated brought paramedic Dean Zalesnik to tears on the witness stand on Tuesday. Zalesnik was aboard the ambulance called to Nadal's Webster apartment two years ago.

Speaking of the infant's severed genitals, he said, there was, "...just red flesh, nothing there."

Describing the wound, he told the jury it was, "...very clean, like someone had cut it with an instrument; very straight."

On cross examination by the defense, Zalesnik was shown his report notes in which he wrote that Nadal had asked in the ambulance, "Is my baby going to live?"

Nadal still claims her miniature daschund puppy was responsible. She stands charged in the mutilation of her son. From the first, her explanation was in doubt.

Richard Ponce, the other paramedic, testified on Tuesday, "I kept asking what had happened. She kept saying the dog had eaten him."

The prosecutor then asked of Ponce, "Why did you ask?"

"Because it didn't look like a dog bite," Ponce replied. "She stated when she woke up, the dog was licking him down there."

A witness who was out with Nadal the night before the baby was injured was Tressa Shanley, who is serving time for drug possession. On Tuesday afternoon, she told jurors, "The day before I told her I was going to my brother-in-law to buy cocaine. She said she wanted some, too."

That night, she testified she saw Nadal in the bathroom with a syringe in her arm and the baby next to her. The cocaine, she said, had been in the diaper bag.

The trial is expected to last all week. If convicted, Nadal could face life in prison.

Monday's update

During opening statements Monday, prosecutor Denise Oncken told the jury that the night before Holden was attacked, Nadal indicated she was going shopping with a friend but actually "went to a dope house" with her son and got high.

Camden Gothia, Holden's father, testified that when Nadal came back, she was "not sober." Nadal, who authorities say has a history of drug abuse and has prior drug arrests, later tested positive for cocaine, methadone and another drug.

Nadal was still high the day Holden was mutilated, when she claimed the family dog, Shorty, attacked the infant in her bedroom as they slept, Oncken said.

Camden Gothia, who was not married to Nadal but lived with her and his son, was at work at the time of the attack.

Doctors who examined Holden will testify the genitals were cut in a perfect square by a sharp instrument, Oncken told jurors. An animal control officer who examined the dog found no blood in its mouth, on its fur or on its paws, she said.

Nadal told authorities there was a torn, bloody diaper that showed the dog had attacked her son, but no such diaper was ever found, Oncken said.

Oncken also said after Holden was attacked, Nadal was more focused on how long her son's surgery was going to take and later left the hospital to have a beer with a friend.

"He was on the verge of death. It was (a neighbor) who had to tell her she had to go with her baby" in the ambulance, Oncken said.

Holden, who lost half the blood in his nine pound body, survived the attack, but the severed body parts were never found.

Allen Isbell, Nadal's attorney, told jurors investigators searched the apartment and never found any instrument or sharp object, and Houston police examined the sink and the garbage disposal and found no DNA or blood evidence.

"There is another reasonable explanation for the injuries to this child," Isbell said. "An expert on dog behavior ... will testify that in her opinion it is possible a dog could have made those injuries."

Holden, now 2 years old, lives with Camden Gothia's sister and her husband, who were given permanent custody after Nadal and Gothia relinquished their parental rights. His father sees him regularly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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