Iowa couple charged after baby's maggot-infested body found

ALTA VISTA, Iowa - A northern Iowa couple has been charged with murder in connection with the death of their 4-month-old son, whose body was found covered in maggots in a baby swing at the family's home.

Cheyanne Renae Harris, 20, and Zachary Paul Koehn, 28, were arrested Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder and child endangerment.

Their son, Sterling Daniel Koehn, was found dead Aug. 30 after Koehn called 911 requesting an ambulance to the couple's Alta Vista apartment, court records show.

RELATED: Iowa child abuse reports rising

When Chickasaw County sheriff's deputies and medics arrived, they found the deceased boy sitting in a powered swing in a bedroom separate from where Koehn, Harris and their older child slept, according to criminal complaints filed in court against the couple.

An autopsy of the baby's body revealed "maggots in various stages of development in his clothing and on his skin," court records show.

A forensic entomologist studied the maggots to determine that Sterling had not been removed from the baby swing for more than a week and that he had not had a diaper change or bath in that time, court records show.

The State Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, and the cause of death was failure to provide critical care.

"The facts of this case go far beyond neglect and show circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life," Chickasaw County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Reed Palo wrote in the criminal complaints.

Sterling was born May 1. He weighed less than 7 pounds at the time of the autopsy, court records show.

The couple's older child is safe, Palo confirmed in a brief phone interview Thursday. He said he could not provide further information.

When deputies first arrived to the couple's apartment the afternoon of Aug. 30, Koehn reportedly told them that his girlfriend, Harris, had fed Sterling that morning "and he was fine." Koehn said that when Harris checked on the baby a couple of hours later, he had died, according to the complaints.

This story was not consistent with autopsy findings and other investigation, court records show.

Harris and Koehn were each jailed in Chickasaw County on $100,000 cash-only bond. Their preliminary court hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 2.

Neither Harris nor Koehn has had any prior criminal convictions in Iowa, online court records show. Palo confirmed the couple hadn't had any run-ins with Chickasaw County law enforcement before this case.

Court records filed in this case show both Harris and Koehn have reported "a history of substance abuse," specifically methamphetamine use.

Pre-trial services reports filed Wednesday indicate Koehn reported that he had last used meth two months ago, and Harris reported last using meth two to three weeks ago. Both have been placed in substance abuse treatment, the reports show.

Harris is also reportedly being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Further information on that condition was not provided in the report.

Though the criminal complaints show Harris and Koehn lived together in Alta Vista when their baby died, the court filings in Harris' case indicate she lived in Riceville with her parents at the time of her arrest.

Public court records show Koehn has another young child who is in his parents' custody.

While Koehn has not been convicted of any crimes in Iowa, he was charged with felony theft late last year in Mitchell County. He was accused of illegally turning on Riceville city water service for his trailer home there after the city had shut off the water because Koehn was delinquent on paying his utility bill, court records show.

The theft charge was dismissed after Koehn agreed to pay restitution to the city, records show.

Koehn reported recently starting a job as a truck driver, and Harris reported being unemployed, court records show.

Alta Vista is about 125 miles northeast of Des Moines.

Des Moines Register


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment