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Iowa Father On Trial For Death Of Neglected, Maggot-Infested Baby

Zachary Koehn's 4-month-old son had been wearing the same soiled diaper for up to two weeks when he was found dead in a decrepit swing, covered in bugs, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister told jurors.

By Eric Shorey

More than a year after a 4-month-old baby's maggot-infested corpse was discovered by emergency responders, the murder trial of his father has begun. 

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister told jurors that 29-year-old Zachary Paul Koehn, who is charged with murder and child endangerment in the death of infant Sterling Koehn, was "not an accident," according to the Des Moines Register, a Des Moines, Iowa-based news organization.

The baby's body had been discovered on Aug. 30, 2017 at the family's home in Alta Vista, Iowa, after Koehn called police to alert them his child had died from SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The corpse was found in a decrepit swing and covered in bugs. A coroner's report later concluded the baby had died of of malnutrition, dehydration and infection.

McAllister told jurors the baby had been wearing the same soiled diaper for between nine and 14 days, leading to insects laying eggs on its body and maggots to develop. The wound that resulted from the diaper rash then became infected with E. coli, he said.

McAllister argued that Koehn is an experienced parent, as proven by his 2-year-old daughter, who had been at the home during the time the baby was being fatally neglected. Even though Koehn was supporting a drug habit, McAllister argued, he had money to buy his children food and clothes.

EMT Toni Friedrich, who was the first responder to arrive at the home, provided a grim description of the scene in her testimony on Tuesday.

The baby's "eyes were open, and it was a blank stare," she said, adding that Koehn showed no emotion when showing her the filthy corpse.

Danny Koehn, Zachary's brother, had discussed Sterling's death with USA Today in November.

“I talked to Zach a lot. He did have concerns about the child being taken care of while he was gone," Danny Koehn said. "He’d call and say the baby wasn’t changed for a week when he wasn’t home. ... It’s still the responsibility of the parents of the child. So I’m not saying he’s innocent.”

“He told me, ‘I think the public realizes I’m not as bad a person as they think,'" Danny continued. "But I told him, ‘No, people do that all the time. They come to prison to pray for prisoners ... This is serious. It will be a miracle for you to get out of jail.’ I honestly think he will spend the rest of his life in prison."

Sterling's mother, Cheyanne Harris, has also been charged in relation to the death and awaits a separate trial. Zachary Koehn's trial had been moved from Chickasaw County to Henry County to counter pretrial publicity.

[Photo: Chickasaw County Sheriff's Office]