Mobile edition | Switch to full site | 33°Partly Cloudy

Search warrants reveal grisly details on Huntsman’s dead babies

image
(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pleasant Grove home Sunday, April 13, 2014, where 7 dead babies were discovered on April 13, 2014.

By Marissa Lang

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 02 2014 08:54PM
Updated Jul 21, 2014 02:31PM

On the surface of a small box, tucked away in a Pleasant Grove garage filled with clutter, was a warning label masquerading as inventory.

It read: "Baby stuff – Megan’s."

Inside, lay a dead infant, its tiny body wrapped in garbage bags and towels. The box was stored like an outdated appliance and left collecting dust for nearly a decade.

According to search warrants released Friday, it was the second of seven babies investigators discovered in Megan Huntsman’s garage on April 12 after the woman’s ex-husband called police in a panic.

The documents, released four days after prosecutors charged Huntsman, 39, with six counts of murder, outline a grim scene that hints at the gruesome steps this mother took to conceal seven births from relatives and neighbors who saw her as a shy but warm woman, who they trusted to baby-sit their own children.

The report reads like an index. Each baby was given a number based on the order in which it was found.

The first was discovered by Huntsman’s ex-husband Darren Brad West as he rummaged through the garage looking for his old belongings.

West, who spent eight years in prison for drug crimes before being recently released into a Salt Lake City halfway house, was allowed to return home for the day to retrieve his belongings.

What he found instead was a lifeless child that Huntsman said was West’s. The baby was wrapped in plastic bags and a green towel and stuffed into a white box that had been sealed with electrical tape.

West told police that the infant inside looked yellow and had a "chemical smell," like iodine, search warrants state.

Police found the other bodies scattered among boxes and cubby holes in the storage space of the beige-brick and sage-green home at 536 E. 200 North.

Baby number three was covered in plastic and stuffed into a shoe box wrapped in a blue sweatshirt then held shut with electrical tape.

Baby number four was found under two blankets and two bath towels in the bottom left corner of a cubby.

Baby number five was laid to rest inside a cabinet on the east wall of the garage among a white apple box, a green hand towel and a red and green blanket. The cabinet held diapers, toilet paper, plastic wrap. Inside, sat T-shirts — one bearing the emblem of the U.S. Marines, another emblazoned with the Budweiser logo — and baby number six, wrapped in a sweater.

Baby number seven was covered with pink and brown towels and placed in a large box inside a black garbage sack.

Among the bodies, police also found articles of discarded clothing — women’s underwear and bloodied white gloves.

In the master bedroom of the home, police found suspicious stains that appeared to have bled through the top of the mattress and into the box spring underneath. Inside the closet, documents reveal, hung tiny baby clothing and booties.

Medical examiners have completed autopsies on each of the infants, but, police said last week it may be weeks before more is known about the tiny victims.

Given the physical decay that has taken root in the years since some of the babies died, investigators said, it may be impossible to determine exactly in what order the babies were born or when each died. DNA may have to be sent out of state to be properly analyzed.

This time lapse — about 10 years, according to investigators — has not only complicated matters for medical examiners, it has precluded prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in this case.

Huntsman appeared in court for the first time Monday wearing green and orange scrubs to answer the six counts of first-degree felony murder that have been leveled against her in Provo’s 4th District Court. Her hands were shackled, her long brown hair hung in stringy strands down her back and the slopes of her hunched shoulders.

Because she had to be charged under the murder statute as it was written at the time of the alleged crimes, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said, she cannot be charged with a capital offense. Huntsman will also face a maximum penalty for each count of five years to life, in accordance with the near decade-old laws, as opposed to the current 25-years-to-life sentence.

Huntsman was arrested at the home of her boyfriend, Jimmy Brady — a teal double-wide trailer with white-trimmed windows and an outdoor patio that sits on a street named after a tiny, delicate bird.

When police asked her about the babies they found in the garage she once shared with her ex-husband, according to court documents, she admitted to strangling or suffocating six of the infants immediately after they were born.

She said she put them inside boxes and hid them for years and years, charges state. But a seventh infant, she told police, was stillborn.

The Pleasant Grove home where the infants were found, a rambler split into upstairs and downstairs apartments, is owned by West’s parents and has been inhabited by the couple’s oldest daughters and West’s sister and husband.

The eldest daughters are around 18 to 20 years old, officials said, while the youngest is now about 13, and was born in the middle of the period that Huntsman admitted to killing the other newborns.

Huntsman is scheduled to again appear in court on May 19, when her attorneys will announce whether she wants a preliminary hearing at which prosecutors would have to lay out their case and persuade a judge there is enough probable cause to order the woman to stand trial.

She has been placed on suicide watch at the Utah County Jail, where she remains in lieu of a $6 million cash-only bail that Buhman has said is appropriate for such " a heinous, horrible crime."

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

Latest in Utah News
Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus