Pa. woman competent, to plead in 5 newborn deaths

A woman charged with killing five newborns conceived through extramarital affairs has been found mentally competent and is scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing next month.

A woman charged with killing five newborns conceived through extramarital affairs has been found mentally competent and is scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing next month.

A Berks County judge declared Michele Kalina competent to stand trial Wednesday after reviewing independent psychiatric testing. A public defender had raised mental-health issues at a hearing last month, but withdrew her motion based on the new tests.

Kalina, 45, of Reading, is now set to plead to unknown charges on Aug. 4, and be sentenced immediately afterward. A gag order prevents lawyers from discussing the case.

The home-health aide is charged with one count each of criminal homicide and aggravated assault, and multiple counts of abuse of a corpse and concealing the death of a child.

DNA tests show she conceived most, if not all, of the babies through a long affair with a co-worker. Neither he nor Kalina's husband knew about the pregnancies.

Kalina moved the remains with her and kept them in a locked closet until her teen daughter found them in the family's high-rise apartment last year and called police, authorities say.

One set of bones was entombed in cement and the others in a cooler, a plastic tub and a cardboard box.

Kalina had no prenatal care during the five pregnancies, and it's not clear where she gave birth, authorities have said.

She also had a sixth secret pregnancy that culminated with the 2003 birth in a Reading hospital of a baby girl that she gave up for adoption. That child was also conceived with the boyfriend, DNA tests show.

A prosecutor described him last year as "overwhelmed and shocked" by news of the pregnancies.

Kalina had borne two children with her husband Jeffrey, in 1987 and 1991. The oldest, a boy, had cerebral palsy and died of natural causes in 2000.

Women who kill newborns are usually young, first-time mothers who are afraid to reveal their pregnancies, experts say. They are rarely found to be mentally ill, according to Geoffrey R. McKee, a forensic psychologist at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine who wrote the book, "Why Mothers Kill."

Kalina, like many of them, appears to have been socially isolated. A native of Rockland County, N.Y., she had no extended family nearby, and seemingly no close women friends.

Her secrets went undiscovered for years, and were only unearthed by her daughter's curiosity. Kalina had told her family not to look in the locked closet.

Neither the daughter nor her husband came to court to see her Wednesday.

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