A mother has admitted strangling and suffocating six of her newborn babies, whose bodies were founded hidden in cardboard boxes in her garage, federal authorities said on Monday.
Police in Utah were trying to fathom a motive and understand why neighbours and family members never noticed her pregnancies, which spanned 10 years.
Megan Huntsman, 39, was taken into custody on Sunday after officers found seven dead infants in her garage. It is believed she gave birth to the victims between 1996 and 2006. She has been charged with murdering six of them. Last night, it was unclear why there was no seventh charge.
The normal weekend rhythms of Pleasant Grove, a town about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City, close to the foothills of the Rocky Mountain, were scrambled after Ms Morgan’s estranged husband telephoned police to say he had been sorting through belongings in the garage when he came across the body of one baby.
When officers arrived, they found the six other corpses, all babies apparently delivered at full term, stuffed individually into boxes. “My personal reaction? Just shocked. Couldn’t believe it. The other officers felt the same. They got more and more shocked each box they opened,” said Captain Michael Roberts, of the Pleasant Grove Police Department.
While Ms Morgan was no longer living in the house, it was still occupied by three of her daughters, one aged about 13 and the other two between 18 and 20 years old. The home is owned by the parents of her husband, Darren West, who had come to sort out the garage because he was planning to move back in.
Police said they believed Mr West was the father of the dead babies but that he was not aware of his wife’s pregnancies or of the suspected infanticides. While he and the three daughters were all questioned yesterday, none of them was facing charges.
Mr West was convicted in 2005 of possessing chemicals to make methamphetamine and sentenced to nine years in prison. He had since been released.
“He was finally coming down to help take care of his family – and to run across that, it would devastate him,” a neighbour, Sharon Chipman, told The Salt Lake Tribune. She said she had seen Ms Huntsman gaining and losing weight over the years but had never thought that she might be pregnant.
That no one, including the three daughters living in the house with their mother at the time, knew she was pregnant seven times without any babies ever materialising remained a riddle, police acknowledged. But most perplexing was the notion that Mr West would have remained unaware. “That’s the million-dollar question,” Capt Roberts said.
Police are awaiting DNA analysis results before they can identify Mr West as the father of all seven dead infants. His family issued a statement speaking of their “shock and confusion”. “It makes us so sad, we want to cry,” said Kathie Hawker, who years ago used to have Ms Huntstman babysit her own children. “We enjoyed having them as a neighbour. This has just blown us away.”