When these offenses occurred in 1996 to 2006, it was not a capital offense, it was not aggravated murder. So, in 2007, I believe the statute changed and would have allowed us, if this had occurred after that date, to file this as an aggravated murder. —Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman
PROVO — A woman accused of killing six infants is now facing six counts of first-degree felony murder.
Charges were filed against Megan Huntsman, 39, early Monday in advance of a hearing scheduled in 4th District Court. The woman is facing six counts of murder, a first degree felony, in connection with the death of six infants.
"From 1996 to 2006 the defendant, Megan Huntsman gave birth to six children who were born alive," the charges state. "The defendant, immediately after each child's birth, choked or smothered the child causing his or her death."
Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman said state statute at the time of the alleged slayings prevents him from seeking the death penalty in the case. The maximum penalty Huntsman could face on each count is five years to life.
Buhman said prosecutors are restricted by state laws that were in place when the alleged criminal activity occurred, which meant they couldn't file the charges as a possible capital offense. It also meant that Huntsman can't face the maximum penalty for murder as it is today, which is 25 years to life.
"When these offenses occurred in 1996 to 2006, it was not a capital offense, it was not aggravated murder," Buhman said. "So, in 2007, I believe the statute changed and would have allowed us, if this had occurred after that date, to file this as an aggravated murder."
Huntsman appeared in court for the brief hearing, again wearing orange and green jail clothes. She said little in court, inaudibly answering questions asked of her by the judge.
Huntsman's attorney, Doug Thompson, indicated Huntsman understood the charges, but waived a full reading of the charges in court. He said he has not received any evidence yet and asked for an additional three weeks.
Judge Claudia Laycock asked prosecutors to share whatever Huntsman's defense team needs in the meantime. Another hearing was set for May 19.
Buhman said that while prosecutors have some police and lab reports, there are still a number of questions that will need to be answered through DNA testing. He said there is no timeline on when those tests will be done, but that the FBI is assisting with the tests.
The prosecution is also awaiting reports from the Utah State Office of the Medical Examiner and an anthropologist who is also working on the case.
Buhman reiterated that while police and prosecutors believe they know the motive, they are not willing to disclose it.
Huntsman is being held in the Utah County Jail in lieu of $6 million bail. She was arrested on April 12 after the bodies of seven infants were found inside the garage of a Pleasant Grove home where Huntsman used to live.
Huntsman is accused of killing six of the infants. The seventh was allegedly stillborn in 2006.
Huntsman then wrapped the babies in a towel or shirt and placed them in individual cardboard boxes that were stored in the garage of her Pleasant Grove home, 536 E. 200 North, according to investigators. The woman's estranged husband, Darren West, found one of the infants when he moved back into the house after spending time in federal prison.
"(West) has been very cooperative. We've had at-length discussions with Mr. West, he's not a suspect," Buhman said.
It is still believed that he is the father of all of the infants.