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052218jr-neglect-hearing-1

Cheyanne Renae Harris enters the Chickasaw County courtroom in New Hampton for a conference on May 22, 2018.

LE MARS — Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the case of a former Alta Vista woman charged with neglecting her infant son to the point he died in 2017.

Authorities said 4-month-old Sterling Koehn was found dead in a maggot-infested diaper, and an autopsy determined he died of dehydration, malnutrition and an infection from untreated diaper rash. An entomologist determined the developmental level of the maggots indicated the diaper hadn’t been changed in nine to 13 days.

Trial for Sterling’s mother, 21-year-old Cheyanne Harris, was moved from Chickasaw County where they had lived, to the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars because of pre-trial publicity. The child’s father, Zachary Koehn, was convicted of murder and child endangerment causing death during an October trial.

Harris’ attorney, Aaron Hawbaker, filed a notice she may use a diminished responsibility or intoxication defense, and he indicated the defense may call Michael O’Hara, a psychology professor at the University of Iowa, as an expert witness.

O’Hara specializes in post-partum depression, and he testified for the defense in Zachary Koehn’s trial. At that time, he said he wasn’t able to examine Harris but had concluded that she likely suffered from the depression.

The defense also listed Art Konar, an Ames psychologist, as an expert witness.

Prosecutor Denise Timmins with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office is asking the court to preclude the defense from using arguments that mental health or intoxication prevented Harris from being able to form the specific intent to commit the crime.

Hawbaker is asking the court to prohibit jurors from hearing any mention of Koehn’s trial, arguing the fact Koehn was convicted would unfairly prejudice Harris’ case.

Koehn had taken the stand during his trial and said Harris was Sterling’s primary caretaker. He said he worked nights driving semis and wasn’t aware the child was being neglected.

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