By Dave Andrusko
Megan Huntsman, the Utah mother who murdered six newborn babies over the course of a decade, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday by 4th District Judge Darold McDade.
The babies were murdered over a span that began in January 1996 and ended at the end of December 2006.
In February, Huntsman pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree felony murder.
But Judge McDade rejected the prosecution’s recommendation that the five-years-to-life prison sentences run concurrently.
Instead, at Monday’s sentencing he said that was “not appropriate” for the crimes, according to Jessica Miller of The Salt Lake Tribune. Judge McDade ordered Huntsman, 40, to serve three of the counts consecutively, while the rest will run concurrently.
Miller reported that before sentencing McDade told Huntsman, “I really thought I’d seen it all until this case came along.” He added, “I hoped I would not get the case. What a tragedy.”
The opening of Miller’s account was incredibly powerful and deeply disturbing:
For 18 years, Megan Huntsman held a deadly secret that she never told a soul.
It’s a secret she thinks about and lives with every day, she said in a statement to a Provo judge Monday.
Six times over 10 years, Huntsman gave birth to a child in her Pleasant Grove home, then immediately pressed her thumbs against the baby’s tiny neck and squeezed the life from the child.
Huntsman attributed her actions to a combination of a methamphetamine and alcohol addiction, an abusive marriage, and her own depression. In her statement, read by her attorney, she added another justification:
“In some small way, I wanted to help them avoid the terrible life I would have given them. … I deprived my little babies of the opportunity of life. … Those babies aren’t coming back, and they never will because of my actions.”
Two of Huntsman’s daughters, her mother, and sister made statements in her defense, according to Miller. The youngest daughter wrote “The Mom I know was the one who had dinner for us every night, a clean house and was a loving mother. Nobody could guess my mom would do anything like this.”
But “no one was called by prosecutors to give a statement on behalf of the infants, “Miller wrote. “The woman’s estranged husband, Darren West — who fathered the dead infants — was in court during the sentencing hearing, but did not speak to the judge.”
Prosecutors called Pleasant Grove Police Detective Dan Beckstrom to the stand Monday to describe the events of April 12, 2014.
Beckstrom said West had called 911 after he found “what he believed was a dead baby in a bag in his garage.” When Beckstrom initially interviewed Huntsman, she insisted the baby had been stillborn. However by an hour into the interview, Beckstrom told the court, he learned that there were more babies in the garage.
“Eventually, police would find seven tiny corpses wrapped in bags, covered in electric tape and stuffed in boxes with clothing and towels,” Miller wrote. “At least one of the babies had a black elastic hair tie around the neck, according to Beckstrom, which Huntsman admitted she had used to ensure the child was dead.
“Huntsman eventually admitted that she choked or smothered six of the children, while claiming that a seventh child found in the garage was stillborn,” according to Miller.