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Past cases: Serial killings of infants born in secret

Published April 14, 2014 2:21 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utahn Megan Huntsman has been arrested on suspicion of six counts of murder after Pleasant Grove police found seven dead infants at a home where she lived until 2011. An arrest affidavit said Huntsman told the police she strangled or suffocated six of the babies immediately after they were born at the home between 1996 and 2006; she said the seventh was stillborn.

Experts say it is rare for a mother to kill a series of infants born in secret, but a handful of cases have made headlines in recent years.

Five dead newborns found in Pennsylvania

Associated Press

A Pennsylvania woman she said she secretly gave birth in her bathtub five times, killed one of the babies and hid all five bodies in a closet.

The remains were discovered by Michele Kalina's teenage daughter in 2010.

Kalina's husband, Jeffrey Kalina, was a disabled stay-at-home father for much of the couple's marriage, which he said had not been sexual in 18 years. He said he had not seen his wife naked during the time she carried babies to full- or nearly full-term births.

Kalina, a home-health aide, conceived the babies through a long affair with a co-worker and hid the pregnancies from him and her husband. She told a psychiatrist she had wrapped each baby, which she considered "essentially stillborn," with a towel and then stored the body in a tub or container in a locked closet.

She recalled that the third baby, a boy, had moved, and that death was the basis for the one count of murder to which Kalina pleaded guilty. She also pleaded guilty to five counts each of abuse of a corpse and concealing a child's death. She was sentenced in 2011, at age 46, to the maximum 20 to 40 years in prison.

The defense psychiatrist described Kalina as an alcoholic who was intoxicated during the births and does not fully recall what took place. She also suffers from severe depression and other mental-health issues, he said.

She had a son and a daughter with her husband; the son died of natural causes as a young teen.

She delivered one baby, fathered by her co-worker, at a hospital and placed the baby for adoption; her husband said he was unaware of the birth.

In France, woman admitted suffocating eight newborns

Associated Press

A French woman admitted suffocating eight of her newborns and concealing their corpses in the garden and garage of her home, the Associated Press reported in 2010, when she was charged with manslaughter.

Dominique Cottrez, a 46-year-old nurse's aide with two grown daughters, said that after a bad experience with her first pregnancy she never again wanted to see a doctor.

She and her husband, who prosecutors said claimed to be unaware of the pregnancies, were detained after two corpses in plastic bags were discovered in a garden by the new owners of a house that had belonged to the woman's father in the town of Villers-au-Tertre in northern France.

Under questioning, the woman admitted that there were six other corpses and told investigators that they were in plastic bags in the garage of her home, where they were found, officials said.

Find other cases reported in France here.

Three secret births end in deaths in Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune

An Orem mother, Darcie Jo Baum, gave birth in secret three times and let the infants die. The final birth, in 1999, cost the 26-year-old her life; she bled to death after delivering an infant son into a basement toilet where he drowned.

Baum's first baby, a daughter, was found dead in the Provo River in 1992. Years later, investigators acting on a hunch compared her tissue with the baby's and learned she was the mother.

Baum's second-born son, Draye, was the only child to survive. He was "her life," Baum's mother, Vickie Austin, said after Darcie Baum's death. Each night at bedtime Baum sang, "You Are My Sunshine," as the boy nodded off to sleep, Austin said in 1999.

Her third child was found dead as a newborn in 1998, wrapped in a quilt in Highland Park at the mouth of American Fork Canyon. A relative recognized the quilt from news reports and notified police. Under questioning, Baum admitted to giving birth in the shower and abandoning the baby.

She was secretly pregnant with her fourth child as she was awaiting trial in that case. —

Safe Haven law enacted to save babies' lives

Utah has had a Safe Haven law on the books since 2001, allowing biological parents to anonymously give up custody of their newborn child without facing any legal consequences. Intended to save children's lives, the law tries to prevent women from abandoning infants in places such as trash cans and bathrooms.

Exactly how many babies have been saved in Utah is difficult to determine, because some women call the Safe Haven hotline at 1-866-458-0058 to learn about resources such as adoption, pregnancy health information and programs that provide financial support for keeping a baby.

The hotline is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week. For more information, go to utahsafehaven.org or follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/UtahNewborn.