Cheyanne Harris, left, shows no emotion as jurors found her guilty of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.

NEW HAMPTON — Attorneys for a former Alta Vista mother are asking the court to overturn her conviction on murder charges in the death of her 4-month-old son.

A Plymouth County jury found Cheyanne Renae Harris, 21, guilty of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death earlier this month following a venue change and a two-week trial.

Sentencing is scheduled for today, and Harris faces mandatory life in prison on the murder charge.

Defense attorney Aaron Hawbaker filed a motion Monday attacking the felony murder theory used by prosecutors at trial. Jurors had to find Harris used unreasonable force, torture or cruelty that resulted in injury to her son, Sterling Koehn.

“There was no evidence presented showing the intentional use of force, torture or cruelty,” Hawbaker wrote in the motion. “The State’s position that the result of the deprivation of food was torturous and cruel is misguided and places the emphasis on the result and not the method or acts of torture and cruelty as required by statute.”

As during trial, Hawbaker admitted in the motion the evidence supported the child endangerment conviction.

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Prosecutors are resisting the defense motion. Assistant Iowa Attorney General Denise Timmins said placing Sterling in a baby swing and leaving him in a hot room for 10 to 14 days without food or a diaper change amounted to torture or cruelty.

“Instead of providing her child the help he needed to survive, the defendant instead chose to put a heavy blanket over the window to dampen sound and smell, place air fresheners underneath the swing to cover up the smell, and to continue her life as if nothing was wrong in the back room. (The child) suffering for the length of time he did at the hands of his mother is nothing but torturous and cruel,” Timmins wrote.

Medics were called to the Alta Vista apartment Harris shared with Sterling, her nearly 2-year-old daughter and the children’s father, Zachary Koehn, in August 2017. Sterling was found dead in a swing seat, and authorities determined maggots in his diaper showed it hadn’t been changed for more than a week. A medical examiner ruled Sterling died of malnutrition, dehydration and infection from diaper rash.

Koehn, 29, was convicted of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death in November following a trial in Mount Pleasant. He was sentenced to life in prison and has appealed his conviction.

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Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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