(Reuters) - A judge set bail at $6 million on Monday for a Utah woman suspected of killing six infants after giving birth to them, then stuffing their bodies into cardboard boxes which were found at a house where she used to live.
Police said Megan Huntsman, 39, admitted under questioning that she strangled or suffocated the babies immediately after their births.
Bail was set at a court hearing a day after Huntsman was arrested and booked into the Utah County jail on six counts of murdering the babies born over roughly a 10-year period. The remains of a seventh infant were also found, but authorities believe that baby was stillborn.
At a hearing in Provo, Utah, District Judge Steven Hansen on Monday set bail at $1 million for each count of murder, said court spokeswoman Nancy Volmer. Huntsman was in jail for the bail hearing, as is routine, and appeared via videoconference, Volmer said.
Huntsman has not been formally charged, and Volmer said she did not know if the woman has retained an attorney. An arraignment date will be set for Huntsman after she is formally charged, Volmer said.
Police say Huntsman is the only person of interest in the case and was cooperative.
She was arrested after her estranged husband, Darren Brad West, discovered the remains of one infant while cleaning the garage. West is not believed to have played a role in the killings, and investigators plan to conduct DNA tests to determine the paternity of the infants, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Police found the remains of the six other newborns, all wrapped in a towel or shirt and placed in plastic bags in separate cardboard boxes at the home where Huntsman lived until 2011 in Pleasant Grove, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City, said Pleasant Grove Police Captain Michael Roberts.
Police believe the seven babies were born to Huntsman from about 1996 to 2006. In 1996, West was sentenced on state and federal drug convictions, and he is now residing in a Salt Lake County half-way house, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Aaron Hawker, 73, a neighbor of the house where the bodies were discovered, said in a phone interview Huntsman babysat his grandchildren about 10 years ago and was “shy, very nice always.” He said he never noticed her looking pregnant.
Hawker said he ”had a lot of respect“ for West, who described as ”a really good guy.
”We’ve been in a state of shock since yesterday,“ Hawker said. ”Finding out about all these children. Short of the shock value, we’ve never seen anything weird or strange or out of sorts with that family.
He said he spoke with West, who “was in tears and saying he does not know how this could happen.”
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Curtis Skinner in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio