Utah mother pleads guilty to killing six newborns

Author: Associated Press

PROVO, Utah (AP) – A Utah mother accused of killing six of her newborn babies and storing their bodies in her garage pleaded guilty to murder Thursday.

Megan Huntsman, 39, faces up to life in prison on the charges. She will be sentenced April 20.

She pleaded guilty to six counts of murder while standing next to her attorney in court. Her voice broke as she said “guilty” in answer to each count.

Prosecutors have called it a unique case in both its heinousness and in the number of victims. Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said he will recommend the sentences run concurrently, which could reduce her minimum possible sentence to five years, but Buhman said she is likely to spend the rest of her life in prison.

“There’s no question that she was ready and willing to take responsibility today,” Buhman said. “We’ll be shocked if she ever gets out.”

He said the plea gives Huntsman fewer options for appeal than a trial, bringing closure to the family more quickly. “It hopefully will mean this case is essentially done,” he said.

Defense attorney Anthony Howell declined to comment, as did family members who attended the court hearing Thursday.

The deaths sent shockwaves through the quiet, mostly Mormon community where Huntsman stored the tiny bodies for more than a decade.

Pleasant Grove police detective Dan Beckstrom said she told police why she stored the bodies, but he declined to share her answer. “She didn’t have a good answer, one that you would understand or I would understand,” he said.

Her estranged husband made the grim discovery in April 2014 while he cleaned out a garage in the home they had shared in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a city of about 35,000 people, south of Salt Lake City. Authorities say a seventh baby found in her garage was stillborn.

Huntsman told police she either strangled or suffocated the babies immediately after they were born. She wrapped their bodies in a towel or a shirt, put them in plastic bags and then packed them inside boxes in the garage.

Police say Huntsman killed the babies over a 10-year period from 1996 to 2006, during a period of her life when she told investigators she was addicted to methamphetamine and didn’t want to care for the babies.

Buhman said the case shows the devastating effects of addiction. “They lose touch with the core goodness and controls that we build up,” he said.

DNA results have revealed that all seven newborns were full term and that her now-estranged husband, Darren West, was the biological father of the infants. West lived with her during the decade the babies were killed, but he is not considered a suspect in their deaths.

West discovered the bodies shortly after he was released from federal prison where he spent more than eight years after pleading guilty to meth charges.

In her few brief court appearances, Huntsman has said very little.

The day the babies were found, Huntsman told police that were eight or nine dead babies in her home, search warrant affidavit show. But police later concluded Huntsman was confused and was taking a ballpark guess.

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