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August 27, 2014

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Police: Utah woman accused of killing babies gave birth at home

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Utah County Jail / AP

This photo provided by the Utah County jail shows Megan Huntsman, who was booked into the Utah County jail on suspicion of killing six of her newborn children over the past decade. Seven dead babies were found in a garage at a Pleasant Grove home where Huntsman lived up until 2011.

Seven Dead Babies Found In Home

Pleasant Grove Police investigate the scene where  seven infant bodies were discovered and packaged in separate containers at a home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Sunday, April 13, 2014.  According to the Pleasant Grove Police Department, seven dead infants were found in the former home of Megan Huntsman, 39. Huntsman was booked into jail on six counts of murder. (AP Photo/Deseret News, Jeffrey D. Allred) MANDATORY CREDIT Launch slideshow »

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman accused of concealing seven pregnancies before strangling or suffocating her newborns gave birth each time in her home, authorities said Wednesday.

Investigators have determined that Megan Huntsman, 39, did not go to a hospital to have the babies, Pleasant Grove Police Capt. Mike Roberts said. He didn't say if anybody helped her give birth.

After her estranged husband discovered one of the infant corpses in the garage this past weekend, Huntsman acknowledged to police that she killed six of the babies, put them in plastic bags and then packed them inside boxes in the garage of her home south of Salt Lake City over a decade from 1996 to 2006. She told police one of the babies was stillborn.

Huntsman was arrested Sunday on six counts of murder. She is being held on $6 million bail — $1 million for each baby — and is due in court Monday for an arraignment.

Investigators have an initial theory on Huntsman's motive but aren't discussing it publicly, Roberts said.

He did say that Huntsman also hid her pregnancies with her two oldest daughters, now in their early 20s, from extended family until she was at the hospital. Neighbors have said they never knew she was pregnant, though they now remember weight fluctuations and toggling between baggy and tight clothes.

"So, she apparently knows how to do it," Roberts said.

Her husband, Darren West, told police in his initial interview that he knew nothing about the pregnancies, Roberts said. He has since obtained an attorney and investigators haven't spoken with him again, Roberts said. They are trying to determine his knowledge or involvement.

If Huntsman's timeline is accurate, that would mean West was living with Huntsman during the time of the births. He went to federal prison in 2006 after pleading guilty to possessing chemicals intended to be used in manufacturing methamphetamine. West was released from a federal prison in California in January and transferred to a halfway house in Salt Lake City.

Through a family spokesman, West has declined comment. The West family has said in a statement released Sunday that they are in a "state of shock and confusion" and that they're mourning "this tragic loss of life."

Utah investigators are examining DNA from the babies to determine who the parents are, studying the bones to find out how long ago the babies died and have questioned family members and neighbors in pursuit of clues about how she did it. They are trying to determine why she did it and who else, if anybody, knew about it or was involved.

They have not ruled out making more arrests.

On Tuesday, they served a new search warrant at the house of a family member, Roberts said, but that turned up nothing useful.

He said investigators are poring over evidence to find out if Huntsman gave birth and killed any other babies, but they don't believe that to be the case, he said.

Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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