Both sides rest in mutilation trial

August 14, 2009 10:33:23 AM PDT
The trial for a woman accused of cutting off her infant's genitals came close to an end Thursday, as both sides wrapped up their cases. Katherine Nadal was calm and composed in court on Thursday, but two years ago, the day after her son was found in a small pool of blood with his genital missing, HPD juvenile investigator Robert Tardy described her as a "zombie."

Recounting her statements that day, Tardy testified to the jury, "She said she heard him (the baby) whimpering. She said she went into the bedroom and saw the dog licking the genitals of the baby."

He continued to testify, "She said she was stunned and pushed the dog off the bed. She said she didn't have a phone and went to a neighbor to call for help."

The dog, a miniature dachshund named 'Shorty,' she told the investigator, was on the bed again when she returned. Samples were taken from the dog's nostrils, stools and nails. An HPD crime lab analyst says a small amount of blood -- too small to retest -- was found on one of the dog's nail clippings, but that DNA couldn't exclude the blood as that of the baby.

No bloody paw prints were found anywhere inside the apartment. Even so, the defense is emphasizing the blood on the nail clippings, no matter how small.

"That was collected six days later," said attorney Allen Isbell. "The dog licks itself and is moving around for six days, so that can be easily explained."

An animal behavior expert testifying for the defense told jurors it's possible a small dachshund could have severed the infant boy's genitals.

But two experts who testified for prosecutors told jurors Thursday they don't believe the dog could have caused the straight edge wounds found on the infant.

Both sides rested their cases Thursday, with closing arguments scheduled for Friday. If convicted, Nadal could face life in prison.

Wednesday's update

The prosecution put on a string of witnesses who testified that Nadal was shooting up cocaine with her baby on her side and the morning of the attack, she went to get her methadone treatment.

The rest of Wednesday's testimony focused on the horrific injures done to the child and a possible weapon. The comforter from the bed where the bleeding baby lay two years ago was shown to the jury. Jurors showed little reaction, but Nadal wept.

The surgeon who attended to the baby testified that one of the child's legs might be shorter because an artery was severed during the attack. The boy also will be on hormones the rest of his life.

Also testifying on Wednesday was the baby's aunt, who is sister to the boy's father. She was emotional from the moment she took the stand.

Speaking of the day the baby went to the hospital, Patches DeShazo, said, "I asked her (Nadal) if she wanted me to stay in the room with her because no other family members were there. She said she was fine."

The prosecutor asked, "Did (Nadal) say anything to the family?"

"Yes," testified DeShazo. "She kept saying to my father, 'Please don't hate me. I didn't do this'."

Nadal claims her miniature dachshund mutilated the newborn, but medical experts have testified the baby's injuries weren't consistent with an animal bite.

A photograph of a pair of kitchen shears found in Nadal's apartment bathroom was also shown to the jury Wednesday. A relative noticed at the time it was missing from the knife block in the kitchen.

The prosecution could rest on Thursday. After that, the defense begins.

Nadal is charged with injury to a child. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.

Tuesday update

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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