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‘He left him there to die:’ Father convicted in death of son found in maggot-infested baby swing

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Cheyanne Harris, Zachary Koehn

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa — An Iowa man was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder in the death of his infant son who was found in a maggot-infested baby swing last year.

Jurors took less than an hour to convict Zachary Paul Koehn, 29, of Alta Vista, of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports. The murder conviction carries a mandatory prison sentence of life without parole.

Koehn had blamed his son’s mother for the death of 4-month-old Sterling Koehn. A trial is pending for the 21-year-old mother, Cheyanne Harris.

Koehn and Harris were arrested after medics were called to an Alta Vista apartment on Aug. 30, 2017, and found the infant dead in a swing in a dark, sweltering back bedroom. An autopsy showed he’d died of malnutrition, dehydration and an E. coli infection caused by being left in a maggot-infested diaper for up to two weeks.

Koehn’s defense team had argued that he had entrusted care of the baby to Harris, saying he had been working 70 to 80 hours a week as a trucker to provide for his family. His attorneys said Koehn simply failed to notice signs that Harris may have been suffering from depression, which kept her from caring for the baby.

But prosecutors argued that Koehn was a meth user who also provided Harris with drugs.

Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins told jurors that Koehn was home often enough to know that the baby wasn’t being cared for and did nothing to help him.

“He let Sterling rot in that room. He left him there to die,” Timmins said.

Koehn’s trial was moved from Chickasaw County to Henry County to counter pretrial publicity in the case.

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