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Autopsies of 7 dead Utah babies done, reports still weeks away

Published April 18, 2014 10:25 pm

Crime • Megan Huntsman is accused of murdering six of her newborn children over a 10-year period.
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Autopsies have been completed on the seven deceased infants found in a Pleasant Grove garage last weekend, but police say it could still be weeks before they receive the reports from those examinations.

Megan Huntsman's estranged husband found the body of a dead infant in the garage last Saturday. 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.

Pleasant Grove police Capt. Michael Roberts said Friday morning that he could not give more details about the dead babies — such as their genders or any conclusions reached after the autopsies — because police do not yet have the medical examiner's reports.

He said DNA was extracted from the tiny bodies, which were found in various stages of decomposition, but added that the DNA is degenerative — or damaged — and there aren't any labs in Utah that can analyze such samples. He said they are working with several labs to find someone with the proper technology, but haven't made any decisions on where the DNA will be sent.

Roberts also said DNA samples were taken from Huntsman and her now-estranged husband, 41-year-old Darren Brad West, to determine if they are the parents of the infants, as police suspect.

Huntsman has been arrested on suspicion of six counts of first-degree felony murder. She is being held in the Utah County Jail in lieu of $6 million cash bail, which was ordered by a judge at an April 14 court hearing. She has not been formally charged with the murders but is expected to be in Provo's 4th District Court again Monday morning.

Police hope to meet with prosecutors at the beginning of next week to screen potential charges, Roberts said, but it was unclear whether charges would be filed in advance of her Monday court appearance.

Roberts also could not speak as to whether the DNA analysis or autopsy reports needed to be completed before charges were filed, and Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman did not respond to a request for comment on that issue.

Police do not consider West a suspect of 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, Roberts said.

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

Roberts 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.

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 oldest daughters — who are now 20 and 18 — until she gave birth to them at a hospital.

One of Huntsman's longtime Pleasant Grove neighbors has said she had noticed Huntsman go through some weight fluctuations over the years, but never thought she was pregnant. Even Huntsman's West Valley City boyfriend, James Brady, told ABC4 that he did not know she was pregnant last year until she miscarried.

Huntsman has not lived at the Pleasant Grove home since 2011, according to police.


Twitter: @jm_miller






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