Michele Kalina, 44, of Reading, Pennsylvania, did not just have a skeleton in the closet, she had five of them and 19-year-old daughter Elizabeth discovered them. Mom had always warned Elizabeth and her dad Jeffrey to stay away from the closet and for two years she did. But one day in July 2010 she looked in and then decided it needed to be cleaned out. What she found shocked her and she called police. Elizabeth told them she had found human remains in a cooler.
“Officers arrived, but told Elizabeth and her dad, Jeffrey Kalina, that these were not human remains. So the cops left and the Kalinas threw them in the trash.” But that evening father and daughter found more, three “suspicious” containers, one of which was filled to the top with cement. “
A week later police searched the apartment again, this time finding bones in a plastic bag and a letter Jeffrey’s wife Michelle had written to her boyfriend seven years before, saying she’d had a baby girl in 2003, but that she’d given it to the Catholic church for adoption.”
X-ray examination showed that the cement encased “an unknown mass”; it turns out the mass was the remains of a baby. August 8 was the day that the bones were determined to be human and Michele Kalina was arrested. She was with charged with two counts of abuse of a corpse and held on $5 million bail.
Investigation showed that the children were the product of a 14-year-long affair. The married couple had not been intimate since 1992. Six times between 1996 and 2000 Michele managed to explain away her weight gain – convincing husband, daughter and boyfriend (a co-worker) her heftiness was not the result of pregnancy. claiming she had a cyst on her fallopian tubes. Yet she had Michelle gave birth to the five babies between 1996 and 2000. Then she either killed them or allowed them to die, keeping their remains in her family’s apartment. In actuality Michele had given birth to six of the man’s children -- three boys, and two girl, and another baby of unidentifiable sex. All but for a girl given up for adoption were killed immediately after birth which took place in the bathtub.
Psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Gottlieb stated that Kalina remembers little about the birth and death of the five newborns. When talking about them “she shows no emotion. It’s like she is talking about someone else.” Alcoholic Kalina was drunk during the births. She pretended the children were not born alive. “At first she said she gave birth to stillborns,” Gottlieb said. “She referred to all five of these babies as fetuses, emotionally detaching herself.” “She could not explain why she chose to put the babies in a container and then in the closet,” he said. Kalina claimed she “preserved the remains of the dead babies to remind her of her shame for having the affair.”
On Oct. 26, 2010 Michele Kalina was charged with five murders. On Dec. 10 was arraigned on charges of homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment, and abuse of a corpse. She pled not guilty. But at trial she finally entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced by the Berks County judge to between 20 and 40 years in prison. At the trial Jeffrey Kalina testified “that he still loves his wife and plans to stay married to her.”
[Robert St. Estephe]
EXCERPT: “She [Michelle Kalina] meets the definition of a serial killer,” said Bowen-Hartung, who specializes in forensic psychology and is chairwoman of psychology and counseling at Alvernia. “It’s not uncommon for a serial killer to keep them as trophies as remembrance,” she said of remains. “The babies were so young. She did not allow maternal attachments. This is a really weird case.” [Holly Herman, “Mystery of Michele Kalina: Reading infant homicides baffle experts,” Reading Eagle (Pa.), Oct. 31, 2010]
Michelle Margaret Kalina, 44 at time of arrest. Some reports spell the name “Michelle.” “Michele,” however, is presumed to be the correct spelling.
Jeffrey Kalina – husband, 53 at time of discovery, but not the father of the murdered babies.
Elizabeth Kalina, 19-year-old daughter. Born 1991.
Andrew, Son – born with cerebral palsy, died at age 13, in 2000.
1985 – Kalinas married.
1992 – Kalinas “stopped being intimate with one another in 1992.”
1996 – Authorities suspect the 5 births occurred between 1996 and 2010. Began intermittent affair with unnamed paramour in 1996. “They ranged in gestational age from 32 to 43 weeks old when they died, according to prosecutors.” Three boys, and girl, and another baby whose sex couldn’t be identified.
Oct. 2003 – at St. Joseph’s Medical Center and gave that child up for adoption, according to court documents.
Jul. 2010 – skeletons discovered by Elizabeth Kalina (19?) in closet. “One body was encased in concrete,” Berks County District Attorney John Adams said. “It was a very bizarre case. The others were wrapped in garbage bags.”
Jul. 29, 2010 – “a forensic anthropologist determined the remains found on July 29 were human.”
Aug. 8, 2010 – “Reading police arrested Kalina Monday [Aug. 8] evening after a forensic anthropologist determined the remains found on July 29 were human.” MK held on $5 million bail, charged with two counts of abuse of a corpse.
Aug. 11, 2010 – Gombar said police and county detectives on Wednesday [Aug. 11, 2010] removed the third set of remains from the cement block found in a 2-by-3-foot container. That container was found July 29, the same day investigators found the other two containers with remains. “We conducted an X-ray and it revealed there was an unknown mass in the cement block,” Gombar said. “We knew something was in the cement block.”
Oct. 26, 2010 – charged with 5 murders (as “date of arrest” error elsewhere).
Oct. 28, 2010 – Kalina was supposed to appear in Berks County District Court Oct. 28, for a preliminary hearing on charges that she murdered five of the infants, but the hearing was postponed.
Dec. 14, 2010 – pleads not guilty. Michele Kalina, 44, was arraigned on charges of homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment, and abuse of a corpse.
Aug. 4, 2011 – pleads guilty. A Berks County judge sentenced her to between 20 and 40 years in prison.
[Sam Wood, “Remains of children found in cooler in woman’s home,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Pa.), Aug. 10, 2010]
[Holly Herman, “3rd set of remains found in cement in apartment,” Reading Eagle (Pa.), Aug.13, 2010]
[Pete Kotz, “Michele Kalina, Married Mom, Charged With Secretly Killing 5 Babies She Had With Her Boyfriend,” TrueCrimeReport.com, Oct. 26, 2010]
[“Neighbor: Mom Accused of Killing 5 Babies Was 'Strange' AOL, Oct. 28, 2010]
[Jessica Hopper, “Pennsylvania Mom Pleads Guilty to Murder After Baby Skeletons Found in Closet,” Abcnews.go.com, Aug. 4, 2011]
[Holly Herman, “Kalina pleads guilty to third-degree murder in death of infant,” Reading Eagle (Pa.), Aug. 4, 2011]
[Maryclaire Dale, “Michele Kalina hid baby remains; Sent to jail for 40 years in
Pennsylvania,” DailyTelegraph.com.au Aug. 5, 2011]
[“Mother charged with murder after killing five of her newborn babies and keeping their bodies locked in a closet for 14 years,” DailyMail.co.uk, Oct. 26, 2010]
For more cases of this type, see Serial Baby-Killer Moms.