Baby Sterling, born May 1st, 2017, was an incredibly sad and tragic case of abuse resulting in his death, around August 30th, 2017 in Alta Vista, Iowa. At autopsy, he only weighed approximately 7lbs, barely above his birth weight, despite being 4 months old.
He had been left in his baby swing, alone in a room, unchanged and unfed by his “parents” Cheyanne Harris and Zachary Paul Koehn. Z Koehn called 911 stating that Sterling had been unresponsive but when first responders arrived they found what can only be described as a gut-wrenching, stomach-turning scene.
Sterling was covered in maggots as he laid in his baby swing, in a diaper that hadn’t been changed in approximately a week. He had maggots burrowing into his skin and in various states of life. The autopsy said he hadn’t been moved in some time. Meanwhile, these “parents” were lovingly doting on their older child in the next room over.
Oddly, Harris and Koehn were not arrested until October 25th, 2017, after a seemingly lengthy investigation into little Sterling’s death. They were both arrested for first-degree murder and child endangerment. The medical examiner ruled the case “failure to provide critical care”.
Initially, both Harris and Koehn had asked for expedited trials. Both trials were initially set for early 2018, though being tried separately. Soon enough, and as anticipated by most people following the case, the defence began to ask for more time to prepare and finally even changes in venue, in hopes of a fair trial.
Zachary Paul Koehn went to trial in November 2018 and in less than an hour of jury deliberations was found guilty of first-degree murder and child neglect resulting in death. Iowa does not have the death penalty but the charge of first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole, which was officially handed down to him On December 4th, 2018.
Cheyanne Harris’ trial is set to begin January 29th, 2019, also in a different venue. Harris’ attorneys have filed notice that they may be using a diminished capacity or intoxication defence as Harris was alleged to be using methamphetamines, with Sterling Koehn testing positive at birth, arguing that she wasn’t in a position to care for her newborn son. An expert already testified in Koehn’s trial that Harris may have been suffering from post-partum depression.