Cheyanne Harris: Iowa mother, 21, guilty of murder after baby son found dead in swing

Forensic entomologist says boy was sitting in maggot-infested swing for nine to 14 days in same nappy

Sarah Harvard
New York
Friday 08 February 2019 09:00
Sterling Koehn
Sterling Koehn

A mother in Iowa was found guilty for killing her four-month-old son after the boy was found dead in a maggot-infested swing while suffering extreme nappy rash.

It took jurors at Plymouth County courthouse four hours to determine that Cheyanne Harris, 21, was guilty of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death.

On 30 August 2017, Sterling Koehn, the baby boy, was found “lifeless and bleeding from his mouth” in his swing in a stifling bedroom in an apartment in Chickasaw County.

The autopsy found he died from malnutrition, dehydration and an E. coli infection. The infection is likely caused from wearing a maggot-infested nappy for up to two weeks.

Harris was arrested after medics discovered the dead baby.

The authorities said she had new nappies and baby ointments to treat the rash in her home, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

In Iowa, a first-degree murder conviction has a mandatory life-sentence in prison without parole.

Zachary Koehn, the 29-year-old father of the boy, has already been convicted and is serving a life prison sentence for the same charges.

Witnesses told the court the apartment where the baby was discovered smelled of urine and faeces.

Jordan Clark, a former friend of the baby’s father, testified in court that he didn’t even know Koehn had a son.

Harris and Koehn also have another child, a two-year-old girl, who appears to be healthy.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Harris fed the baby boy the night before he was found, chief deputy Reed Palo said.

A forensic entomologist – a scientist who studies insects – said the baby boy had been sitting in the maggot-infested swing for nine to 14 days in the same nappy.

Nichole Watt, Harris’s attorney, also used mental health as a defence.

Harris, who confessed to using meth a few weeks before her son’s death, claimed postpartum depression and argued intoxication, or “diminished responsibility".

“The monster in this case is mental health,” Ms Watt said. “The monster in this case is depression."