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Megan Huntsman pleads guilty to murdering 6 of her newborns

PROVO — In a quiet voice, Megan Huntsman repeated "guilty" six times.

The 39-year-old Pleasant Grove woman admitted Thursday that she choked or smothered six of her newborn babies to death and hid their bodies in her garage for years. She pleaded guilty in 4th District Court to six counts of murder, a first-degree felony.

When she is sentenced April 20, Huntsman faces five years to life in prison for each of the six murders. In exchange for her guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to recommend that her sentences run concurrently instead of consecutively.

"Which will probably help her a little bit when she gets to the prison and the classification she gets when she gets into prison. It may allow her to get into general population a little sooner than she otherwise would," said Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman.

Regardless if the sentences run concurrent or consecutive to each other, Buhman said he would be "shocked" if the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole didn't keep Huntsman in prison for the rest of her life.

"They have six life sentences they can use to manage her time. So we'll be surprised if she ever gets out of prison," he said. "There are very few people at the Utah State Prison who are responsible for six murders of infants. So, our hope is she will probably spend the rest of her life in prison."

It will ultimately be up to Judge Darold McDade to decide what sentence she'll receive.

In a case that shocked the state and received worldwide media attention, Huntsman gave birth in her house to seven babies between 1996 and 2006 and immediately killed six of them. A seventh was determined to be stillborn.

The seven bodies were discovered 10 months ago while Huntsman's estranged husband, Darren West, was going through old boxes in the garage of the home the couple shared in Pleasant Grove, 536 E. 200 North.

Although West was apparently unaware that his wife had been pregnant seven times, it was later determined he was the father of all seven children.

Buhman said he had not spoken to West directly about the plea deal. Much of his office's contact with West and his family has been through a family spokesman, he said. The spokesman was present in court Thursday but left the building without comment.

Likewise, Huntsman's defense attorneys had nothing to say to waiting reporters. Buhman, however, noted that Huntsman has been cooperating throughout the investigation.

"I think there's no question she was ready and willing to take responsibility today," he said.

Despite the resolution, there are still several unanswered questions about the bizarre case.

Police say Huntsman was addicted to drugs at the times of the births and she told them she couldn't afford to keep the children and have her drugs.

When asked Thursday why Huntsman kept the bodies in bins in her garage, Pleasant Grove police detective Dan Beckstrom said he doesn't have an answer.

"It truly is unexplainable. We did have those discussions with her, and I'm just not prepared to give details about that right now," he said.

"She didn't have a good answer — one that you would understand or I would understand," Buhman added. "I don't think she has an explanation."

When pressed further, both Beckstrom and Buhman declined to repeat exactly what Huntsman told them.

By pleading guilty, Buhman said Huntsman gives up her right to appeal, which means the case won't drag on for years in court.

"It hopefully will mean this case is essentially done after the sentencing," he said.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam