A woman who said she secretly gave birth in her bathtub five times, killed one of the babies and hid all five bodies in a closet pleaded guilty to murder Thursday and was sentenced to the maximum 20 to 40 years in prison.
Michele Kalina, 46, of Reading, conceived the babies through a long-running affair with a co-worker and hid the pregnancies from him and her husband. She told a psychiatrist she had wrapped each baby with a towel and then stored the body in a tub or container in a locked closet.
She thought four were "essentially stillborn" and denied doing anything "malicious," Dr. Jerome Gottlieb, a defense psychiatrist testified. But over the course of several visits with him, she recalled that the third baby, a boy, had moved. That death is the basis for the one count of murder.
"She (said she) might have wrapped the baby too tightly with a towel so that the baby couldn't breathe," Gottlieb said.
That boy's body was wrapped in towels, clothing and bags, then encased in cement in a tub stored with the others in a closet. The five bodies decomposed for years until her teen daughter found the skeletal remains last year.
Kalina, a home-health aide, also pleaded guilty to five counts each of abuse of a corpse and concealing a child's death.
Gottlieb described her as an alcoholic who was intoxicated for all of the births and does not fully recall what took place. She also suffers from severe depression and other mental-health issues, he said.
A public defender sought leniency on grounds that she had learned to deny reality in order to endure severe physical and sexual abuse as a child.
Berks County Judge Linda K.M. Ludgate didn't buy the argument. She said Kalina had left the newborns in tubs and containers "like garbage," and rebuked her for not getting help, at least after the first delivery.
"She got pregnant again and again and again and again," Ludgate said.
Kalina sobbed as she told the judge she now has nightmares about the babies.
"I cry for the babies, and nothing I can do can bring them back," Kalina said in a monotone voice, reading from a statement. "I am very upset and ashamed about what happened."