Questions remain as Utah woman formally charged with 6 counts of first-degree murder in deaths of babies killed at birth

 

By Dave Andrusko

Megan Huntsman appears in court Monday.  Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Megan Huntsman appears in court Monday.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Prosecutors in Provo, Utah, this morning officially charged 39-year-old Megan Huntsman with six first-degree murder charges for killing six newborns over the space of ten years and stuffing their bodies into a garage “tucked away among old shoes and an artificial Christmas tree.”

Huntsman is the only suspect in a case where to date little light has been shed on what could possibly explain the alleged murder spree which took place between 1996 and 2006 when she strangled or suffocated the babies at birth.

Over the weekend, the New York Times filed a 1,500+word dispatch that filled in some details that painted a picture of a desperately unhappy and sick woman with no sense of self-esteem and hints of domestic abuse which were denied (at least by the estranged husband, Darren West).

But the primary questions remain the same. How could Huntsman, a relatively slight woman, have seven pregnancies during this time span and no one, including her now-estranged husband know? (She is not charged in the death of the seventh baby who was found; Huntsman told police the baby was stillborn.) People who knew her told the Times’ Jack Healy and Serge F. Kovaleski that they “simply chalked up the fluctuations in her 5-foot-4, 105-pound frame to weight gain.”

In one sense her behavior was consistent with her pregnancies in the early 1990s when Huntsman had her two oldest daughters. “Relatives, neighbors and friends said they had never even realized Huntsman had been pregnant,” Healy and Kovaleski write. “[S]he concealed those pregnancies from her family until she was close to going into labor, according to the police.”

What explains that after having their first two daughters, Huntsman and West “had a third who was born during the time that Huntsman has admitted to killing the other babies”?

West has a history of trouble with the law, including serving time on federal drug charges. Yet “Neighbors described him as a caring father who had been hoping to rebuild his life after his recent release from prison,” according to the Times. “When the bodies were discovered, he had been cleaning the home in hopes of moving back in with their daughters, and denied knowing anything about the babies or his wife’s hidden pregnancies.”

Likewise, when Huntsman moved in with her boyfriend, Jimmy Brady, “She could be loving and mothering,” Healy and Kovaleski write. She

“helped care for Brady’s 5-year-old son, and spent hours playing with the young children of her next-door neighbor Joshua Flowers, 34, taking them to a playground and chasing them around on bicycles, he said. “She’d come out and smile and say hi and talk about her kids,” Flowers said.

One piece of additional news in the Times’ story surrounded what happened after West discovered the body of one baby packed in a cardboard box and called Huntsman. (It was not until police came that the bodies of the other six babies were found.) Huntsman then told Brady that years before

“she had miscarried a child, panicked and hid it away. She did not mention the other six, he said. Knowing the police were coming, he said, she begged him for a gun.

“His voice trembling as he spoke on his front steps, Brady said he was still shaken.

“’I don’t know what to believe anymore,’ he said. ‘I knew a totally different person than what’s on the news. I just don’t see how somebody could hide this many demons in the closet for so long.’”