Accused baby killer's lawyer calls HPD investigation a travesty

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A Mililani woman, charged with murdering her infant nephew, made her first court appearance in the case Monday. After the brief hearing, Natalee Westbrook's lawyer accused police of mishandling the investigation.

An accused baby killer waits, as her lawyer fights unsuccessfully to keep news cameras out of the courtroom.

"Alpha 89, Natalee Westbrook," the deputy prosecutor called the case.

Police say Westbrook, 26, was babysitting her sister's son, seven-week-old Maika Lawelawe-Westbrook, when he became unresponsive.

"I'm informed that the child was born with a blood clot in his forehead," Eric Seitz, defense attorney, said. "We will get the medical records and we believe that we can explain whatever has happened."

Westbrook told investigators she left her nephew sleeping on a sofa for two to three minutes, and found him face down on the floor when she returned. He died the next day.

According to a police affidavit, a large bruise was seen on the left side of Maika's head, and a doctor observed possible internal bleeding in Maika's skull and reported he may have semi-detached retinas.

The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy says the infant died from abusive head trauma.

"Where somebody violently shakes the baby, that's something that maybe a deranged person would do," Seitz said. "But there's no evidence in any records anywhere that my client would engage in that kind of conduct."

Seitz calls the police investigation a travesty.

"There are no eye witnesses. There's no real tangible evidence that Natalee is the person who is responsible for this baby's death," he said. "And I will tell you quite frankly, there is nobody who knows her who thinks that she's capable of doing this."

"This case is about a baby who was murdered," Maj. Frank Fujii, Honolulu Police Department, said. "We have confidence that our investigators have done a thorough and complete investigation."

Westbrook is free after posting $150,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is tentatively set for July 15th.