PROVO, Utah – A woman who said she was too addicted to methamphetamine to raise more children pleaded guilty to charges that she killed six of her newborn babies and hid their bodies in her garage over a 10-year period.
Prosecutors say the plea deal means Megan Huntsman, 39, will likely spend the rest of her life in prison over what authorities described as a heinous series of killings from 1996 to 2006.
Huntsman's voice broke as she said "guilty" six times Thursday to answer for each count.
The infants' remains were discovered by their father, Darren West, last April as he gathered belongings from the home they had shared in Pleasant Grove, a city of about 35,000.
West, Huntsman's estranged husband, called police after finding the first tiny body in a cardboard box. Authorities found the rest, seven in all, one of which they said was stillborn.
Huntsman told police she strangled or suffocated the newborns immediately after they were born, wrapped their bodies in cloth, put them in plastic bags and packed them in boxes. She told investigators she was addicted to meth at the time and didn't want to care for the babies.
Authorities believe Huntsman gave birth to the children at home, but it remains unclear how she concealed the pregnancies and murders from family members and friends.
West discovered the bodies shortly after he finished an eight-year federal prison stint in on meth charges. He lived with Huntsman during the decade when they were killed, but police said they aren't investigating him in connection with the deaths.
West and Huntsman have three other children, who are with other family members. He was not in court and has not spoken publicly about the case.
Defense attorney Anthony Howell declined to comment, as did family members who attended the court hearing about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Utah County attorney Jeff Buhman said the family supports the deal with prosecutors that could reduce her minimum sentence to five years but "we'll be shocked if she ever gets out."
Huntsman has said little in her brief court appearances, but Buhman said she has expressed remorse and may speak at her sentencing. He said the plea gives Huntsman fewer options for appeal than a trial would have, which "hopefully will mean this case is essentially done after the sentencing."
The day the bodies were found, Huntsman told police there were eight or nine dead babies in her home. But police later concluded that Huntsman was confused and guessing.
Pleasant Grove police detective Dan Beckstrom said she told police why she stored the bodies, but he declined to share her answer. "It truly," he said, "is unexplainable."