A mother has been found guilty of killing her 4-month-old son whose body was found in an infant swing in Iowa in 2018.
Cheyanne Harris, 21, was found guilty on charges of first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported on Feb. 6.
The body of Sterling Koehn, the infant, was partially decomposing when he was discovered in a bedroom at his parents’ Alta Vista, Iowa, apartment. Deputies and paramedics found the boy when they were called to the home.
After four hours of deliberation, jurors found 21-year-old Cheyanne Harris guilty of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death.
An autopsy showed the boy died of malnutrition, dehydration, and an E. coli infection, according to KCCI.
The boy’s father, Zachary Koehn, was also convicted Nov. 6, 2018, of first-degree murder and child endangerment.
Officials said that the baby had been in his swing between nine and 14 days in the same diaper, according to Des Moines Register.
Sterling Koehn was found dead on a mechanical swing, weighing less than seven pounds, in an apartment. Feces in his diaper ate through his skin.
“She did make the statement to me that at the time, as she looks back, that she thought that Sterling was the reason her family was messed up,” said psychiatrist Dr. James Dennert about Harris’s mental state, according to the Sioux City Journal. “She told me now she looks back on that and she realizes that was illogical.”
The state medical examiner also found the boy’s death was a homicide, saying that his cause of death was listed as failure to provide critical care, the Des Moines Register reported, which added that a deputy said the case goes “far beyond neglect.”
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister told jurors on Oct. 30 that the baby “died of diaper rash” and included other grim details, reported The Associated Press.
The prosecutor then said the diaper rash led to broken skin, leading to an E. coli infection, contributing to the child’s death.
“He died of diaper rash. That’s right, diaper rash,” McAllister said.
A report from the local coroner’s office said the boy died of dehydration, malnutrition, and the infection.
Koehn’s attorney said the baby’s death was tragic, but it was not a crime. He stated that while Koehn was a drug user, he had a 2-year-old daughter and also denied the prosecutor’s claims.
Toni Friedrich, an EMT nurse, said she was the first to arrive on the scene of the parents’ apartment in Alta Vista, Iowa.
The baby’s “eyes were open, and it was a blank stare,” Friedrich said of the boy. She said Koehn showed no emotion when he led her to the room where the baby had died.
Brandy Harris, a grandmother of the child, told KCRG that she said the 4-month-old was small but in good health.
“He was a relatively happy baby,” she said, KCRG reported.
Zachary Koehn, 29, was sentenced Dec. 4 in Chickasaw County District Court.
According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (pdf), approximately 3.5 million children nationwide in 2016 were the subjects of at least one maltreatment reports to authorities. “Child abuse is one of the nation’s most serious concerns,” the authors of the report wrote in the introduction.
About 17 percent of those reports were substantiated; the department said that there were an estimated 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect, or 9.1 victims per 1,000 children.
Children in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 24.8 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.
About three-quarters of the cases were neglect while about 18 percent were physical abuse. Some children suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment. Of the perpetrators of the abuse, more than four-fifths were between the ages of 18 and 44 and more than one-half were women.