The mother of a small, neglected infant whose malnourished corpse was discovered by police in 2017 wearing a feces-filled, maggot-infested diaper has been found guilty of his murder.
Cheyanne Harris, 21, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death 4-month-old Sterling Koehn, was found to have died as a result of malnutrition, dehydration and infection.
Zachary Koehn, the baby’s father, had been found guilty on the same charges in December.
Jurors took more than five hours to deliberate on the accusations made against Harris.
Graphic descriptions of the child’s death had been shared at both trials. Zachary Koehn had called police on on August 30, 2017 to falsely claim that Sterling had died of sudden infant death syndrome. Sterling’s body was discovered in the Alta Vista, Iowa home with infected sores from a feces-filled diaper and bugs that had hatched from the filth. E. Coli had entered his bloodstream through the wounds. A forensic entomologist who inspected the insects concluded that Sterling had been left in the swing where he was found for between nine and 14 days without a diaper change. The death was then considered a homicide; a deputy characterized the situation as "far beyond neglect” in charging documents.
Nicole Watt, a public defender representing Harris, claimed in court that the death was not intentional but the result of Harris’ postpartum depression, for which she had been self-medicating.
"The monster, in this case, is mental health," Watt said, according to the Des Moines Register.
A babysitter who testified that Sterling, who had been left in her care for 17 hours alongside an unnamed 2-year-old girl, had suffered diaper rash and appeared underweight, according to The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
Harris’ next court appearance is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 19. She will be officially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Koehn received the same sentence.
[Photo: Chickasaw County Sheriff's Office]
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