PLEASANT GROVE— There was no indication that an east bench home had seven babies — newborns murdered and in various stages of decomposition — stored in its garage.
Neighbors said they were shocked to find out earlier Sunday the reason Pleasant Grove police cordoned off the property near 500 East and 200 North on April 12.
“We thought it must be a drug deal, because they brought dogs and that is typically for a drug deal,” neighbor Aaron Hawker said.
Megan Huntsman lived in the home for more than 10 years before she moved to West Valley City in 2011. Police have arrested her on suspicion of six counts of murder.
Police say the 39-year-old gave birth to the infants from 1996 to 2006 and have reason to believe at least six of the children were killed after birth.
“It’s still a very active investigation,” said Capt. Michael Roberts, Pleasant Grove Police Department public information officer.
Hawker sat in his family living room Sunday reflecting on the suspect, Megan Huntsman, and how the situation must have developed.
“None of us ever thought she was pregnant. She was always so skinny and there were six full-term pregnancies,” Hawker said.
Searching for a body is part of police work, although gruesome. Searching for dead babies makes the job horrendously difficult, according to Roberts.
“It’s very emotionally draining, very emotionally draining and a hard case to work,” Roberts said. He said there is counseling available for those officers on the case who had to search the garage.
Officers would later arrest Megan Huntsman of West Valley City without incident on six counts of murder when she arrived at the Pleasant Grove Police Station on their request.
Huntsman has been booked into Utah County Jail and will appear before the 4th District Court in Provo to be arraigned Monday or Tuesday.
“Certainly, in my mind, Megan is not a murderer,” Hawker said. “Personally speaking I think Megan was scared to death to have anybody find out.”
He said he doesn’t know how the babies were killed but wondered how her family would have dealt with those deaths.
“Fear can really motivate you,” Hawker said.
The first tiny body was found when the family began clearing out the garage from the old boxes stored there.
“A family member of the people at the home noticed a pungent smell from a box,” Roberts said.
The family opened the box.
Huntsman’s former husband, Darren West, called police to the scene, according to Roberts, but he said the man is not a suspect.
According to Aaron Hawker, West was getting ready to move back to his Pleasant Grove home.
“I had spoke with Darren yesterday morning at about 9:30 and he had mentioned that they were cleaning out the garage,” Hawker said. “Taking a bunch of stuff to the dump, I guess. About two to three hours later, these police cars started showing up.”
Officers searched the rest of the garage after obtaining a warrant and found six more tiny bodies, each in its own cardboard box, from shoebox to orange crate size.
Roberts said it appears the family living in the home had no knowledge of the bodies in their garage.
“We don’t believe they had prior knowledge of what happened or what occurred there,” Roberts said.
Police on the scene Sunday told the Daily Herald that Huntsman, who lives in West Valley City, came to the police station and was arrested without incident.
The woman has at least three living children ages 14 to 22, according to Aaron Hawker’s grandson, who used to play with the oldest daughters as a young child.
“I grew up with Jaycee and Darian. They were my best friends when they were little. I never really got to know Megan or anything,” 20-year-old Forest Hawker said. “I don’t think they knew anything about it.”
“It just really surprised me. I never suspected anything,” Forest Hawker said.
Huntsman’s mother, Joyce, and other family members who live in Pleasant Grove, had no comment Sunday and asked that the media respect their privacy as the investigation into the deaths continues.