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Utah woman accused of killing six of her newborns appears in court

Published July 21, 2014 11:58 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Provo • Attorneys for a Pleasant Grove woman accused of killing six of her newborn children said Monday that they need more time to look at evidence before moving forward in her court case.

Megan Huntsman, 39, is charged in 4th District Court with six counts of murder.

The woman, dressed in an orange and green jumpsuit, made a brief appearance in a Provo courtroom Monday, where her attorney, Anthony Howell, told the judge that they had just received all of the evidence in the case and needed time to go through it.

She'll be back in court again on Oct. 20.

Investigators say that Huntsman told authorities she was using meth during the period when she allegedly smothered or strangled the infants and also was drinking during part of that time. The cost of feeding her addiction factored into the killings, police have said, adding that Huntsman alluded to a choice she was facing.

DNA testing on seven dead babies found stuffed into cardboard boxes at Huntsman's home in April confirmed that all of them — five girls and two boys — were fathered by her husband.

Prosecutors contend that six of the infants were choked or smothered shortly after birth by Huntsman during the period from Jan. 1, 1996, to Dec. 31, 2006. Huntsman allegedly told investigators that she had killed six of the babies, but she claimed the seventh was stillborn.

The long-kept, deadly secret began to unravel April 12, when Huntsman's now-estranged husband, 41-year-old Darren West — who had spent eight years in prison for drug crimes before being released into a Salt Lake City halfway house — was at their Pleasant Grove home retrieving some of his belongings.

Inside the garage, West found the remains of a baby wrapped in plastic bags and a green towel and stuffed into a white box, sealed with electrical tape. Alerted to the grisly discovery, police later found six more infant corpses similarly stored inside other boxes.

Huntsman will not face the death penalty under the near-decade-old murder statute in effect at the time of the crimes. Instead, she faces a maximum penalty for each count of five years to life.

The woman is being held at the Utah County jail on $6-million, cash-only bail.

Huntsman and West have three living children together, all daughters, now ages 13 to 20.

On May 16, Judge Darold McDade ordered that Huntsman be made available for a psychological evaluation, but no further details on whether that exam had yet been done, or if so what the results were, have been released.

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said Monday morning that those evaluation were being done by the defense team, and that, so far, no concerns over her mental competency have been raised in court. Buhman also said there have been no discussion yet about a potential plea deal for the woman.

jmiller@sltrib.com