Police said Megan Huntsman, 39, has admitted during questioning
that she strangled or suffocated her infant children immediately
after she gave birth to them, following pregnancies that she
apparently kept secret.
Huntsman was arrested on Sunday and booked into the Utah County jail
in Provo on six counts of murder in connection with the deaths of
six babies born to her between about 1996 to 2006 at her former home
in the town of Pleasant Grove, 35 miles south of Salt Lake City.
The body of a seventh infant also was found at that address, but
authorities believe that child was stillborn, Pleasant Grove Police
Captain Michael Roberts said.
At a detention hearing on Monday, District Judge Steven Hansen set
bail for the mother at $1 million for each count of murder, court
spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.
Huntsman, who had no attorney present and has not asked for legal
representation, appeared for the brief proceedings via
video-conference from the jail, according to Volmer.
Huntsman, who police described as the only "person of interest" in
the case, had not been formally charged as of Monday, and will enter
a plea when she is formally arraigned, Volmer said.
Pleasant Grove Police Lieutenant Britt Smith said Huntsman had been
cooperating with detectives, with whom she has shared her rationale
for the killings, but Smith said he was not at liberty to disclose
the motive the mother has given police.
"It's just an absolutely heinous crime that's going to leave
everybody asking, 'why,' even when they hear the motive," Smith told
For now, authorities remain baffled at how Huntsman could have
carried several pregnancies to term during the course of a decade
without drawing anyone's notice.
"That's the million-dollar question, but it appears to be the fact,"
Smith said. "She concealed the pregnancies."
WRAPPED IN TOWELS AND PLASTIC
Smith said police have no record of Huntsman having been treated for
mental illness or having ever been committed to a psychiatric
institution, adding, "We don't believe that mental health is an
The bizarre case came to light after Huntsman's estranged husband,
Darren Brad West, discovered the remains of one infant wrapped
inside a plastic bag while he was cleaning out the garage of the
Pleasant Grove home on Saturday.
Investigators called to the residence then found the remains of six
other newborns, each wrapped in a towel or shirt and placed inside a
plastic bag contained within a separate cardboard box at the house,
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Huntsman lived at the house from 1996 until 2011, along with three
older children of hers — two of them now adults and one a teenager — who currently reside with other relatives in Utah, Smith said.
Smith said Huntsman was never reported to child welfare authorities,
and none of her three older children was ever removed from the home
while living with her. It was not clear what the older children
might have known about their mother's concealed pregnancies or the
deaths of their infant siblings.
West, who was released from federal prison in California earlier
this year after serving time for a drug conviction, had been
estranged from Huntsman since 1996, the year she began living at the
Pleasant Grove address, police said.
Police plan to conduct DNA tests in an attempt to determine the
paternity of the slain infants, who they believe may have been
fathered by West, 41.
In addition to his federal prison term in Colorado, West served time
in a Utah state prison from August 2006 until February 2008 for
driving under the influence of drugs. He also served 45 days in
county jail in the early 1990s for a sodomy-rape conviction,
according to the state Corrections Department.
Aaron Hawker, 73, a neighbor of the house where the bodies were
discovered, said in a phone interview that Huntsman babysat his grandchildren
about 10 years ago and was "shy, very nice always." He said he never noticed her
"We've been in a state of shock," Hawker said. "Finding out about
all these children. Short of the shock value, we've never seen
anything weird or strange or out of sorts with that family."
He said he spoke with West, who "was in tears and saying he does not
know how this could happen."
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Curtis
Skinner in New York; writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Scott
Malone, David Gregorio and Ken Wills)
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