SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSL) – Police say the autopsies on seven deceased infants found in a Pleasant Grove garage have been completed.
But it may still be awhile before any of the outstanding questions surrounding the bizarre and horrific case of Megan Huntsman, 39, are answered.
Huntsman is being held in the Utah County Jail on $6 million bail, accused of giving birth to seven babies between 1996 and 2006 and strangling or suffocating six of them immediately after they were born. The seventh was allegedly stillborn in 2006. Huntsman then wrapped the babies in a towel or shirt and placed them in individual cardboard boxes that were stored in the garage of her Pleasant Grove home.
One of the infants was discovered last weekend by Huntsman’s estranged husband who was moving back into the house after spending time in federal prison.
Now that the autopsies are completed, Pleasant Grove Police Capt. Michael Roberts anticipates that the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office will compile its reports and meet with police and the Utah County Attorney’s Office on Monday to review the case for criminal charges. Roberts said he did not have any of the autopsy results on Thursday.
As for DNA tests and attempts to confirm the father and mother of each infant, Roberts said that will have to be done by the FBI at a lab outside of Utah.
“The DNA we got from the bodies is called degenerative DNA, and the labs around here don’t work with that,” he said.
“That type of DNA is very easy to degrade,” Brent Horn, forensics director at Weber State University, said. “In other words, the environment will break it down really quickly and make it difficult” to determine the father or fathers in the absence of that nuclear DNA.
However, there are a number of specialized, outside labs that can analyze and determine whether or not Megan Huntsman is the mother, according to Horn.
“They have these little energy generators in the cells called mitochondria that carry their own DNA profile that’s passed down from mother to children,” Horn said.
Earlier this week, Utah Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey, while not allowed to talk about the specifics of the seven bodies brought to his lab, said one of the biggest challenges he was facing was the age of the bodies and decomposition. A forensic anthropologist was assisting his office.
Based on all the evidence that had been collected, which includes interviews with Huntsman, Roberts said investigators believe she is the mother of all seven infants. Her estranged husband is believed to be the father, even though he told police he had no knowledge of her pregnancies despite the fact that they were living together.
Hiding pregnancies is something police suspect Huntsman has done all her life. Roberts said his department has gathered information suggesting that the pregnancies of two of her three living daughters were also hidden until the day she gave birth. He said she apparently gave birth to all her babies, both living and deceased, in her house — although Roberts declined to go into details Thursday — and did not see a doctor at all during her pregnancy.
“I was told she hid the first two. The family didn’t know about it until the day she delivered,” he said.
Roberts said he could only speculate that baggy clothing and not going out in public much was the way she kept her pregnancies secret.
Huntsman was recently pregnant with a child with her current boyfriend, according to neighbors. But even he didn’t find out about it until she reportedly had a miscarriage.
“We think we know the motive” for the alleged killings, the captain said, but he declined to elaborate. He said, however, neither drugs, alcohol nor mental illness are believed to be factors.
“Just from our interaction with her, she doesn’t appear to be mentally ill. We had good communication. But it’s always a possibility,” he said.
Roberts said he didn’t want to discuss a possible motive yet because there are still “too many open doors” that need to be addressed before the case is brought to a conclusion.
More than 1,000 photographs were taken as part of three search warrants that police served on Huntsman’s old Pleasant Grove house where the infants were found, her current modular home in West Valley City, and her mother’s home in Pleasant Grove.
“We’re looking into other options, but at this point all we can prove is that Megan is the only one that knew what was going on,” Roberts said.