Utah woman arrested after 7 dead babies found in cardboard boxes in home's garage
Pleasant Grove Police investigate the scene where seven infant bodies were discovered and packaged in separate containers at a home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Sunday, April 13, 2014. (Deseret News, Jeffrey D. Allred)
Brady McCombs And Martin Griffith, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, April 13, 2014 7:31PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 13, 2014 11:11PM EDT
PLEASANT GROVE, Utah -- A Utah woman accused of killing seven babies she gave birth to over 10 years was arrested Sunday after police discovered the tiny bodies stuffed in separate cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home.
Megan Huntsman, 39, who lived in the Pleasant Grove home until three years ago, had the infants between 1996 and 2006, investigators said.
Neighbours in the middle-class neighbourhood of mostly older homes 35 miles south of Salt Lake City say they were shocked by the accusations and perplexed that the woman's older children still living in the home didn't know their mother was pregnant or notice anything suspicious.
Officers responded to a call Saturday from Huntsman's estranged husband about a dead infant at the home, police Capt. Michael Roberts said. Officers then discovered the six other bodies.
Roberts declined to comment on a motive and what Huntsman said during an interview with investigators. He said it wasn't clear if she has an attorney. Huntsman was booked Sunday into the Utah County Jail on six counts of murder. It wasn't immediately clear why there were six counts and not seven.
The spokesman said police believe the estranged husband and Huntsman were together when the babies were born, but the man isn't a person of interest at this time. His name was not immediately released.
"We don't believe he had any knowledge of the situation," Roberts told The Associated Press.
Asked how the man could not have known, Roberts replied, "That's the million-dollar question. Amazing."
The babies' bodies were sent to the Utah medical examiner's office for tests, including one to determine the cause of death. DNA samples taken from the suspect and her husband will determine definitively whether the two are the parents as investigators believe.
Police say the husband was cleaning out the garage when he made the grisly discovery at the house owned by his parents in a city of about 35,000 people at the foot of snow-capped mountains. It's a nondescript, newer home with a brick facade and a star ornament hanging by the door. Several police cars blocked the entrance to the house Sunday evening as officers milled about with the belongings from the garage strewn across the front lawn.
Neighbours told the AP they were shocked and horrified by the accusations of what went on inside. None of them even knew Huntsman was pregnant in recent years.
The family members seemed like nice people and good neighbours, said Aaron and Kathie Hawker, who live next door.
Huntsman moved out several years ago, leaving her three daughters, one teenager and two young adults, to live alone, the Hawkers said. They weren't sure where Huntsman has since been living.
Years ago, Huntsman baby-sat the Hawker grandchildren and they were friendly with each other.
"It makes us so sad, we want to cry," Kathie Hawker said. "We enjoyed having them as a neighbour. This has just blown us away."
Aaron Hawker said he talked with the husband Saturday morning. He told Hawker he was cleaning out the mess in the garage.
"Two hours later, suddenly we had all these policemen here," Aaron Hawker said.
Fred Newman, a neighbour whose cousin is the husband's mother, said he's perplexed how the three oldest daughters living there didn't know about what police say was going on. He said the girls didn't always park their cars in the garage, but did sometimes in the cold winter months.
"What's shocking is the three older ones living there and not noticing that their mother was pregnant," Newman said.
He said he has used his snow-blower to clean off the driveway of the home and the young women would thank him.
The girls were normal youngsters, coming and going often, neighbour Vickie Nelson said.
"It's shocking and kind of morbid and strange," Nelson said as he looked across the street at the garage from her from lawn.
Roberts said the case has been "emotionally draining" and upsetting to investigators. He was at the home when the bodies were discovered.
"My personal reaction? Just shocked. Couldn't believe it. The other officers felt the same," the 19-year police veteran said.
"They got more and more shocked each box they opened," Roberts said.