HOUSTON – Prosecutors told jurors on Monday that a Texas woman accused of cutting off her infant son's genitals two years ago was a drug abuser who showed no remorse or concern for her child as he was on the verge of death.
Katherine Nadal's defense attorneys, however, said an expert will back up the 28-year-old woman's claim it could have been the family dog, a 6-to-7 pound (about 3-kilogram) dachshund, that mutilated her son in their suburban Houston apartment in March 2007.
Nadal is on trial on a charge of injury to a child, a first-degree felony. She faces up to life in prison if convicted of attacking her then-5-week-old son, Holden Gothia. Her trial is expected to last at least a week.
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.