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Sterling Koehn

This is a court exhibit photo of Sterling Koehn prior to his death.

ALTA VISTA — Baby Sterling Koehn died a slow death, forgotten in the back bedroom of an Alta Vista apartment in 2017.

On Saturday, community members, relatives and emergency officials who had hoped to resuscitate the 4-month-old and who pursued justice in his death will gather to pay their respects.

“It will be an opportunity for the community to come together. ... This is the first chance we have had to take a breath after all the court stuff,” said Chief Deputy Reed Palo of the Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Office, who had helped investigate Sterling’s death.

The public is invited to the memorial service, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Alta Vista Hall, 203 S. White Ave., in Alta Vista, which is next to Union Cemetery, where a new headstone for Sterling was placed.

The event will include speakers who were involved in the case.

Palo said Sterling’s death deeply affected everyone involved in the case — first responders, investigators, prosecutors and social service workers — and the professionals had to carry on with their roles and try to stay detached while doing their jobs.

“A case like this is going to affect you for the rest of your life,” Palo said. “You don’t have an opportunity to grieve, you don’t have an opportunity to process the emotional side. ... You didn’t get a chance to have an emotional response.”

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In the wake of Sterling’s death, officials are reminding residents of the state’s Safe Haven law, which allows new parents to surrender infants up to 30 days old to medical facilities or by calling 911 without fear of being prosecuted for abandonment. (more at https://dhs.iowa.gov/safe-haven).

Organizers also say any financial donations can be made to the Chickasaw County Child Abuse Prevention Council, 223 S. Water Ave., New Hampton, IA, 50659.

Sterling’s father, Zachary Paul Koehn, called 911 on Aug. 30, 2017, to report the child had died. Medics and sheriff’s deputies who responded found Sterling in a feces-saturated, maggot-infested diaper in a swing seat.

Authorities said the condition of the baby’s diaper showed he hadn’t been changed or moved in more than a week. A medical examiner determined Sterling died of malnutrition, dehydration and infection from untreated diaper rash.

Koehn was convicted of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death following trial in November, and another jury found Sterling’s mother, Cheyanne Harris, guilty of the same charges in a February trial.

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Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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