It was July of 2010 when police in Reading, Georgia, received an extremely disturbing phone call from a young woman. She said that she had found what she believed were human remains in her mother’s closet. Police arrived at the home and said they did not believe that the remains were human, and said she was free to throw them out, which she did.
The following day, however, the young woman called back to say she had found additional items. Police came back to the home and this time, they determined that the remains were indeed human. The remains had been found concealed in coolers. One set was also found filled with cured cement. 1
The woman’s mother, Michele Kalina, was arrested and charged with abuse-of-a-corpse.
Investigators now had the task of trying to determine what had taken place. They would discover that Kalina had hid six pregnancies from her husband and long-time boyfriend. Kalina had been having an extramarital affair and had killed at least four of her new born babies.
DNA testing would show that the remains had come from five separate bodies, four of whom had been born alive. The boyfriend was the father of three of the victims, possibly four, and tests on the fifth had come back inconclusive. It would be determined that the babies were killed with asphyxia, poisoning or neglect.
With the new grim discovery, Kalina’s charges were elevated, and she was charged with homicide.
Kalina and her husband, Jeffrey, had a 19-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son with cerebral palsy who died back in 2000. Kalina had also given birth in 2003 to a daughter, who was the product of Kalina and the man she had been having a longstanding affair with; she had given this baby up for adoption.
According to Jeffrey, he had suspected at least once that his wife could have been pregnant
The boyfriend, who was never identified, claimed he had no idea that Kalina had ever been pregnant, although he added that at one point, he had noticed her abdomen was growing. Kalina had claimed that she cysts on her fallopian tubes that she needed to have drained at hospital. These alleged “cysts” returned several times throughout their relationship, he said.2
The affair had been conducted between the years of 1996 and 2010 and investigators believed that the murders had been carried out simply so that Kalina could hide the affair from her husband. “I think she was hiding them because they were from the boyfriend,” said Assistant District Attorney M. Theresa Jonson.3
After Kalina’s arrest, she said that she had forbidden her disabled husband and daughter from going near the closet. When the family moved to a high-rise apartment, Kalina brought the remains with her.
She had been able to conceal the pregnancies not only from Jeffrey and her boyfriend, but to her co-workers as well. She had held the same job for 15 years, looking after elderly patients. While she earned praise at her place of employment, she said to investigators that she had been an alcoholic for years and often suffered from blackouts.4
The case was perplexing not only to the community, but even experts. Typically, when women kill newborns, they are usually young, first-time mothers who are afraid to reveal their pregnancies. According to Geoffrey R. McKee, a forensic psychologist at the University of South Carolina: “More often, the death is designed to avoid being detected as pregnant.”
In December, Kalina appeared in court where she pleaded not guilty. Early the next year, however, it was reported in the media that Kalina had negotiated a plea. As details of the plea were being arranged, it was postponed when Kaline’s public defender raised mental-health issues. The judge ordered that Kalina undergo independent psychiatric testing to determine whether she was competent.
It would be determined that Kalina was mentally competent and in August of 2011, she pleaded guilty to murder and five counts each of abuse of a corpse and concealing a child’s death.
During the hearing, it was disclosed that Kalina had secretly given birth to the five babies in her bathtub. She had told a psychiatrist that she wrapped each baby up and then stored it in a tub or container which she then put in the locked closet. According to Dr. Jerome Gottlieb, Kalina told him she thought that four of the babies were “essentially stillborn” and denied that she had done anything “malicious.”
After several conversations with Dr. Gottlieb, Kalina acknowledged that the third baby may have moved. He stated: “She said she might have wrapped the baby too tightly with a towel so that the baby couldn’t breathe.” This baby was found encased in cement.5
He went on to describe Kalina as an alcoholic who was drunk during the births and could not recall exactly what had taken place. He additionally said that she suffered from severe depression and other mental-health issues. Kalina’s defence lawyer had sought leniency on grounds that Kalina learned to deny reality as a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Dr. Gottlieb suggested that Kalina had put memories of the babies in a “psychological closet.”
The judge, however, did not agree with the defence. She said that Kalina had put the five babies in tubs and containers “like garbage” and lamented the fact that she did this five times; not once did she seek out help.
Kalina would testify during the sentencing phase. She broke down into tears as she recollected how she had nightmares about the five babies, telling the judge: “I cry for the babies, and nothing I can do can bring them back. I am very upset and ashamed about what happened.” She would state that her boyfriend had refused her request to wear condoms throughout their affair. While he had been asked to testify during the sentencing phase, he refused.
Jeffrey would also testify, telling the judge that he would have helped raise the babies despite the fact they were not his. “Sure, of course. Day one. Moment one,” he said. He said that he and Kalina had not been intimate for the past 18 years and he had not seen her naked. “She was always slim,” he said. He said that once in 2003, he suspected she could have been pregnant but when he spoke with their daughter, she rejected the idea.6
Michele Kalina would ultimately be sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.
- Associated Press, 16 August, 2010 – “Pa Coroner: Infant Bones Yield Little Information”
- Associated Press, 25 October, 2010 – “Pa. Mom Killed Her 4 Newborns”
- Associated Press, 6 May, 2011 – “Mom Suspected of Killing 5 Newborns Set for Plea”
- Associated Press, 2 June, 2011 – “Pa. Woman Delays Plea in Deaths of 5 Newborns”
- Athens Banner-Herald, 5 August, 2011 – “Woman Hid Bodies of Newborns in Closet”
- Associated Press, 4 August, 2011 – “20-40 Years for Pa. Woman Who Hid Baby Remains”