Seven dead babies: Mum's bail set at $6m

Megan Huntsman, who was booked into the Utah County jail on suspicion of killing six of her newborn children over the past decade. Photo / AFP
Megan Huntsman, who was booked into the Utah County jail on suspicion of killing six of her newborn children over the past decade. Photo / AFP

A judge set a US$6 million bail for a Utah woman accused of killing six babies that she gave birth to over 10 years.

State Judge Steven Hansen in Provo set bail at $1 million for each child when Megan Huntsman appeared via video in a Utah courtroom this morning.

Huntsman, 39, was arrested yesterday on six counts of murder after police found the infants' tiny bodies inside cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home in Pleasant Grove.

A seventh baby found appears to have been stillborn, Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman told reporters after Monday's hearing.

Formal charges have not yet been filed against Huntsman and no other arrests have been made but Buhman said the investigation remains open.

Investigators were still trying to determine if the seven babies had the same father or multiple fathers, Buhman said.

Authorities believe Huntsman killed her babies after giving birth to them between 1996 and 2006.

It wasn't immediately clear if she had an attorney.

The gruesome case has raised a series of questions about how the killings occurred despite Huntsman carrying out what neighbors said seemed like a normal existence. Police declined to comment on a motive and on what Huntsman said during an interview with investigators.

Her estranged husband found the first infant's body while cleaning out the garage after recently getting out of prison. Authorities do not believe he was aware of the killings and he isn't a person of interest at this time.

Police Capt. Michael Roberts said officers responded to a call from him Saturday about a dead infant, and then they found the six other bodies.

Family and neighbours identified the estranged husband as Darren West, who has been in prison on drug-related charges.

Roberts said police believe West and Huntsman were together when the babies were born.

"We don't believe he had any knowledge of the situation," Roberts told The Associated Press

Asked how West could not have known about the situation, Roberts replied, "That's the million-dollar question. Amazing."

The babies' bodies were sent to the Utah medical examiner's office for tests, including one to determine the cause of death. DNA samples taken from the suspect and her husband will determine definitively whether the two are the parents, as investigators believe.

Huntsman also has three daughters -one teenager and two young adults who lived at the house.

Neighbours in the middle-class neighborhood of mostly older homes 35 miles south of Salt Lake City say they were shocked by the accusations and perplexed that the woman's older children still living in the home didn't know their mother was pregnant or notice anything suspicious.

Late Sunday, West's family issued a statement saying they were in a "state of shock and confusion."

"We are mourning this tragic loss of life and we are trying to stay strong and help each other through this awful event," the statement said before asking for privacy.

West pleaded guilty in federal court in 2005 to two counts of possessing chemicals intended to be used in manufacturing methamphetamine, court records show. In August 2006, he was sentenced to 9 years in prison, but appealed the term three times. He maintained his innocence and said he never had any intention to manufacture meth.

- AP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 27 Dec 2014 06:41:00 Processing Time: 1164ms