By Peg McEntee
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – A Utah mother accused of killing six of her newborn infants over the course of a decade told investigators she had been suffering from methamphetamine and alcohol addiction that left her with no means to support or care for the babies, police said on Tuesday.
Megan Huntsman, 39, was charged in April with first-degree murder in the deaths of the six newborns who police say she has admitted to strangling or suffocating just after their births between 1996 and 2006 in a rare case of serial infanticide.
The infants’ remains were found wrapped in old towels, shirts and plastic bags and stuffed inside cardboard boxes in the garage of Huntsman’s former home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a suburb just north of Provo.
The body of a seventh infant was found disposed of in the same way, but authorities say that child was stillborn.
Police have said Huntsman secretly gave birth to all seven babies without medical assistance at home, after apparently managing to conceal her pregnancies from the outside world.
Hunstman, who remains jailed in lieu of $6 million bond, has yet to enter a plea. She has undergone a court-ordered evaluation to determine whether she is competent to stand trial, and a hearing on that issue is set for July 21.
Authorities previously have said Huntsman had explained her rationale for the killings to police when she confessed. But the alleged motive was not disclosed until Tuesday, when police also released the results of DNA tests confirming she was the slain infants’ biological mother.
Pleasant Grove police Captain Mike Roberts said the woman had told detectives that she was hooked on methamphetamine and alcohol at the time, and did not feel she could sustain her addictions while caring for the children.
“When it came to money, it was either drugs or the babies. She made the decision,” Roberts told Reuters.
DNA tests also confirmed that Huntsman’s estranged husband, Darren West, whose discovery of one of the tiny bodies triggered the investigation, was the father of all seven babies – two boys and five girls, Roberts said.
Neither West nor any of Huntsman’s three surviving daughters – aged 14, 18 and 20 as of April – is a suspect in the case. Those three daughters continued to live at the Pleasant Grove address, with other relatives, after their mother left to move into a boyfriend’s home in 2011.
At least one of the three, the youngest, was born during the period in which her sibling infants were slain. But authorities have offered no explanation for why she, too, was not killed.
(Reporting by Peg McEntee in Salt Lake City; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Stephen Coates)