SALT LAKE CITY - A Utah mother was ordered held on US$6 million (S$7.5 million) bail on Monday, accused of killing six of her own newborn children over a 10-year period and stuffing their bodies into cardboard boxes that were later unearthed at the house where she once lived.
Police said Megan Huntsman, 39, has admitted during questioning that she strangled or suffocated her infant children immediately after she gave birth to them, following pregnancies that she apparently kept secret.
Huntsman was arrested on Sunday and booked into the Utah County jail in Provo on six counts of murder in connection with the deaths of six babies born to her between about 1996 to 2006 at her former home in the town of Pleasant Grove, 35 miles (56 km) south of Salt Lake City.
The body of a seventh infant also was found at that address, but authorities believe that child was stillborn, Pleasant Grove Police Captain Michael Roberts said.
At a detention hearing on Monday, District Judge Steven Hansen set bail for the mother at US$1 million for each count of murder, court spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.
Huntsman, who had no attorney present and has not asked for legal representation, appeared for the brief proceedings via video-conference from the jail, according to Volmer.
Huntsman, who police described as the only "person of interest" in the case, had not been formally charged as of Monday, and will enter a plea when she is formally arraigned, Volmer said.
Pleasant Grove Police Lieutenant Britt Smith said Huntsman had been cooperating with detectives, with whom she has shared her rationale for the killings, but Smith said he was not at liberty to disclose the motive the mother has given police. "It's just an absolutely heinous crime that's going to leave everybody asking, 'why,' even when they hear the motive," Smith told Reuters.
For now, authorities remain baffled at how Huntsman could have carried several pregnancies to term during the course of a decade without drawing anyone's notice. "That's the million-dollar question, but it appears to be the fact," Smith said. "She concealed the pregnancies."