PLEASANT GROVE — A West Valley woman was arrested early Sunday after police found seven deceased infants in a Pleasant Grove home Saturday, shocking family members and leaving a neighborhood stunned.
Police believe Megan Huntsman, 39, gave birth to all of the infants and killed them between 1996 and 2006. At least six of them were born alive, police said.
According to investigators, Huntsman admitted to police that she either suffocated or strangled the babies immediately after they were born.
Huntsman's ex-husband and some family members found a newborn infant's body when they were cleaning out the garage on April 12. Huntsman hasn't lived in the home since 2011 and currently lives in West Valley City, according to police.
"They came across a suspicious package that had kind of a pungent odor. They started to open the package and realized that there was a deceased infant inside the box, (and) called the police," said Pleasant Grove Police Capt. Michael Roberts.
After obtaining a search warrant, police found six more infant bodies wrapped up and placed in separate taped-up cardboard boxes in the garage area. Roberts said he couldn't believe something like this would ever happen.
"It’s unfathomable," he said. "I can’t even imagine what’s going through somebody’s head to do that."
A family member of Huntsman's ex-husband said he and Huntsman are still legally married. Police said he is not currently a suspect in the case. According to neighbors, his family owns the home and some relatives live there with the couple's three teenage and young adult daughters.
"It is hard to express with words, the emotions surrounding our family at this time. Yesterday's events have left us 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 family wrote in a statement released Sunday.
Other than a traffic citation in 2011, no criminal record for Huntsman was found during a search of Utah court records.
Huntsman was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of six counts of murder. DNA tests will be completed to determine who fathered the babies, police said.
“She was always a good babysitter because she baby-sat my grandchildren when they were little. ... She was one we could always count on to do the job right,” Kathie Hawker said.
Kathie and Aaron Hawker were Huntsman’s neighbors when she lived in Pleasant Grove and have known the family for 15 years.
“They've always been really good neighbors," Aaron Hawker said. She always seemed like a good mom, a good wife. ... This came as a shock both to (my wife) and I because we always thought she looked skinny. We never saw any evidence of pregnancies.”
Utah was one of the first states to have a safe haven law in place in 2001. A parent can anonymously give up custody of a newborn baby at a hospital, no questions asked.
The parent will not be reported to police, investigated or prosecuted. The baby is then placed in the custody of the State Division of Child and Family Services and is put up for adoption.
"We do know that babies have been saved under our safe haven law," said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who sponsored the legislation, also known as the baby drop-off law.
Arent said the idea for the law was started by a reporter in Alabama who was "sick and tired" of reporting on "dumpster babies." She said all 50 states have passed similar laws.
The law is meant to keep children from being abandoned in dumpsters or bathrooms. Parents can call the Safe Haven hotline, available 24/7, at 1-866-458-00581-866-458-0058.
"There's a safe alternative," Arent said. "There's an alternative where the baby can live and be placed in a loving home and there's so many families that want these babies. The mother can go on with her life. No one needs to know that she was pregnant, and the baby can live."
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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