PROVO, Utah – A judge has set bail of $ 6 million for a Utah woman accused of murdering six children she gave birth to for more than 10 years.
State Judge Stephen Hansen in Provo decided to release a million-dollar bail for each child when Megan Huntsman appeared on video in a Utah courtroom.
Huntsman, 39, was arrested on six counts of murder after police found small infant bodies inside cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home in Pleasant Grove.
Utah County attorney Geoffrey Bohman told reporters after a hearing that the seventh child who was found appeared dead.
No formal charges have yet been brought against Huntsman and no further arrests have been made, but Bohmann said the investigation remains open.
Bohman said investigators are still trying to determine whether the seven children were of the same or multiple fathers.
It was not immediately clear if she had a lawyer.
The horrific case raised a series of questions about how the killings happened despite Huntsman performing what neighbors said looked like a normal life. Police declined to comment on the motive and what Huntsman said during an interview with investigators.
Her estranged husband found the body of the first child while cleaning the garage after his recent release from prison. The authorities do not believe he was aware of the murders and that he was not a significant person at this time.
Police Capt. Michael Roberts said that officers responded to a call from him on Saturday about the death of an infant, and then found the six other bodies.
Family and neighbors identified estranged husband as Darren West, who was in prison on drug charges.
Roberts said police believed West and Huntsman were together when the children were born.
“We don’t think he had any knowledge of the situation,” Roberts told The Associated Press.
When asked about West’s inability to figure out the situation, Roberts replied, “That’s the million-dollar question. Amazing.”
The children’s bodies were sent to the Utah State Medical Examiner Office for tests, including one to determine the cause of death. DNA samples taken from the suspect and her husband will definitively determine whether the parents were the parents, the investigators believe.
Huntsman also had three daughters – a teenager and two young men who lived in the house.
Neighbors in the mostly middle-class neighborhood of elderly homes 35 miles south of Salt Lake City say they are shocked by the accusations and baffled that the older woman’s children still live in the home not knowing their mother is pregnant or noticing anything fishy.
Late Sunday, the West’s family issued a statement saying they were in “a state of shock and disorientation”.
“We encourage this tragic loss of life and try to stay strong and help each other during this horrific event,” the statement said, before asking for privacy.
Court records showed that West pleaded guilty to federal court in 2005 on two counts of possession of chemicals designated for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. In August 2006, he was sentenced to 9 years in prison, but he appealed the sentence three times. He asserted his innocence and said he had no intention of manufacturing methamphetamine.
West’s sister, Sarah Wright, wrote to the Federal District Court in 2006 stating that West is a good father to his three daughters. She said he worked for an exploration company for 11 years and is an avid outdoor person who loves fishing and camping.
She wrote, “Darren is a wonderful father.”
Neighbors told the AP that they were shocked and dreaded by the accusations of what happened inside the house. None of them knew that Huntsman had been pregnant in recent years.
Aaron and Kathy Hooker, who live in the house next door, said the family members looked like good people and good neighbors.
The Hawkers family said that Huntsman left several years ago, leaving their three daughters to live alone. They weren’t sure where the Huntsman lived since.
Years ago, Huntsman sat down as a child of Hawker’s grandchildren and was friendly to each other.
“It makes us so sad, we want to cry,” said Cathy Hooker. “We enjoyed their presence as a neighbor. We were just astonished.