Provo • Darren Brad West was clearing out a garage Saturday when he found a plastic bag in a cardboard box, tucked inside a cabinet along with six others like it.
He looked inside and discovered a dark secret his estranged wife allegedly has been hiding for years — one that would shock and horrify neighbors and investigators alike.
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.
Before she moved out of their Pleasant Grove home, Megan Huntsman allegedly strangled or suffocated six babies immediately after giving birth to them, then placed the bodies inside boxes and hid them in the garage, according to an arrest affidavit released Monday.
Huntsman, 39, told police she did not kill a seventh infant — which was stillborn — also found hidden in the garage, the affidavit adds.
The grisly case was publicly unveiled by police on Sunday after Huntsman was arrested on suspicion of six counts of first-degree felony murder.
On Monday morning, via closed-circuit TV from the Utah County jail, Huntsman appeared in 4th District Court, where bail was set at $6 million.
Huntsman, wearing a worn blue jumpsuit with the sleeves rolled up to her shoulders, appeared tired during the hearing.
As she stepped in front of the camera, she pressed her hand to her face, covering her eyes. Seconds later when prosecutors asked for a $6 million bail, Huntsman merely blinked and showed no perceptible emotion.
"That’s fine," she told Judge Steven Hansen blankly when he asked her what she thought of the massive sum.
Huntsman has been on suicide watch ever since she was booked into the jail, said Utah County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Darin Durfey.
Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said Huntsman will be back in court April 21, which is likely the earliest date that charges would be filed.
Buhman explained the high, cash-only bail by saying that Huntsman is a "flight risk and because this is a heinous, horrible crime."
Buhman added: "This is a little shocking because of the number of babies that were killed."
Pleasant Grove detective Dan Beckstrom said after the hearing: "I’ve never seen anything like this in my career."
The seven infants, all in their own boxes, were inside a cabinet amid other boxes and items, added Pleasant Grove Police Chief Michael Smith.
The arrest affidavit said Huntsman told the police, after waiving her Miranda rights, that she gave birth to the seven babies at her Pleasant Grove home between 1996 and 2006. She also told police that she strangled or suffocated the babies immediately after they were born, the affidavit adds.
Investigators found each baby wrapped in a towel or shirt, and placed inside a plastic bag, and each was in a separate cardboard box, according to the affidavit.
Police said Huntsman has not lived at the home since 2011.
Huntsman’s alleged secret was exposed when her estranged husband, 41-year-old West, found one of the dead infants while cleaning out the garage at the home on Saturday. West contacted Huntsman, who admitted the baby was hers, and had been stillborn in 2006, the arrest affidavit states.
West then called police, according to the affidavit.
Police obtained a search warrant and found six more babies packaged in separate cardboard boxes inside the garage, said Pleasant Grove police Capt. Michael Roberts.Next Page >
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.