Utah mom accused of killing 6 babies given attorney
Prosecutors say, “There is a lot of evidence that is being gathered as we speak”; judge grants them one more week.
Published: April 22, 2014 11:04AM
Updated: July 8, 2014 05:35PM
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Megan Huntsman

Provo • Criminal charges against a woman accused of killing six of her babies likely won’t be filed until her court appearance next week.

Megan Huntsman’s estranged husband found the body of a dead infant in their Pleasant Grove garage on April 12. Police later discovered six more, all wrapped in plastic bags and tucked into cardboard boxes.

Huntsman, 39, subsequently admitted to suffocating or strangling six of the infants immediately after giving birth between 1996 and 2006, according to an arrest affidavit. The seventh child is believed to have been stillborn.

Huntsman made a brief appearance Monday in Provo’s 4th District Court, where she was appointed a public defender, and Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman asked a judge for more time to file formal charges.

“There is a lot of evidence that is being gathered as we speak,” Buhman told the judge. “The medical examiner has completed initial autopsies, but we don’t expect the reports for a while.”

Buhman asked the judge for a two-week continuance, but attorney Taylor Hartley, on behalf of the public defender’s office, told the judge that Huntsman felt two weeks was too long.

Judge Claudia Laycock gave prosecutors one more week to prepare.

Huntsman, who appeared in court among other inmates shackled and wearing a green and orange jumpsuit, said little during her appearance. She told the judge she had no income or savings and had not worked since December 2012.

The woman, who is being held at the Utah County jail in lieu of $6 million bail, will be back in court April 28.

Buhman said outside of court that prosecutors needed the extra time to ensure they filed the correct charges to fit the alleged crimes.

“We want to be careful,” he said. “We want to file the right charge, with the right [offense] dates. We want to make sure we don’t file anything erroneously.”

Though the autopsies are complete, authorities are remaining tight-lipped about what the examinations revealed, or whether cause of death or the babies’ genders could be determined.

Pleasant Grove police Detective Dan Beckstrom said Monday that Huntsman has been cooperative with police, but he would not discuss whether she has told them any motive behind the alleged killings.

“We are not prepared to talk about that yet,” he said.

Police have taken DNA samples from Huntsman and her now-estranged husband, 41-year-old Darren Brad West, to determine if they are the parents of the infants, as officers suspect.

Police do not consider West a suspect or person of interest in the children’s death, though he is believed to have fathered all of the infants. In his initial statement to the police, West claimed he did not know about any of the pregnancies, according to authorities.

In 2006, West went to prison on drug convictions and is currently living at a Salt Lake County halfway house.

Pleasant Grove Police Capt. Michael Roberts has said investigators have determined that Huntsman did not go to a hospital to have the seven babies in question, all of which appeared to be full term.

But the captain could not comment as to how Huntsman, described in jail records as 5-foot-4 and 105 pounds, could have concealed so many pregnancies. But Roberts did note that no one knew the woman was pregnant with her two eldest daughters — who are now 20 and 18 — until she gave birth to them at a hospital. Huntsman also has a 14-year-old daughter.

One of Huntsman’s longtime Pleasant Grove neighbors has said she had noticed Huntsman go through some weight fluctuations through the years, but never thought she was pregnant.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller