PROVO, Utah — A Utah mother pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to killing six of her newborns and storing their bodies in the garage, bringing closure to a case that small town prosecutors called uniquely heinous.
Megan Huntsman, 39, faces up to life in prison when she’s sentenced April 20. Her voice broke as she said “guilty” six times to answer for each count.
The guilty pleas are the result of a deal that could reduce her minimum sentence by five years, but still “we’ll be shocked if she ever gets out,” Utah County attorney Jeff Buhman said.
The infants’ remains were discovered by Huntsman’s estranged husband, Darren West, in April 2014 as he gathered belongings from the home they had shared in Pleasant Grove, a city of about 35,000. He called police after finding the first tiny body in a cardboard box. Authorities found the rest, seven in all, one of which they said was stillborn.
Huntsman told police she immediately strangled or suffocated the newborns, wrapped them in cloth, put them in plastic bags, then packed them in boxes over a 10-year period from 1996 to 2006.
She told investigators she was addicted to methamphetamine at the time and didn’t want to care for the babies.
West made the discovery shortly after he was released from federal prison where he was sent eight years ago after pleading guilty to meth charges.
He was the father of each child and lived with Huntsman during the decade when they were killed, but police have said they aren’t investigating him in connection with the deaths.
West and Huntsman have three other children, who are with other family members. He was not in court and has not spoken publicly about the case.
Defense attorney Anthony Howell declined to comment, as did family members who attended the court hearing about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Huntsman has said little in her brief court appearances, but Buhman said she has expressed remorse and may speak at her sentencing.
He said the plea gives Huntsman fewer options for appeal than a trial would have, which “hopefully will mean this case is essentially done after the sentencing.”
The day the bodies were found, Huntsman told police were eight or nine dead babies in her home. But police later concluded Huntsman was confused and taking a guess.
Pleasant Grove police detective Dan Beckstrom said she told police why she stored the bodies, but he declined to share her answer. “It truly,” he said, “is unexplainable.”
(LINDSAY WHITEHURST and BRADY McCOMBS)