Cheyanne Harris, Zachary Koehn

Cheyanne Harris, at left, and Zachary Koehn: 

Parents plead not guilty in Alta Vista child death

Trial date set for father in child death case

ALTA VISTA — The parents of a baby found dead in an infant swing in an Alta Vista residence in August have been charged with first-degree murder and felony child endangerment for his death.

Zachary Paul Koehn, 28, and Cheyanne Renae Harris, 20, identified as the biological parents of 4-month-old Sterling Daniel Koehn, were arrested Wednesday following a two-month investigation.

Bond was set at $100,000 cash only. The penalty upon conviction of first-degree murder is mandatory life in prison.

Court records indicate the child weighed less than 7 pounds and had died of neglect.

“The facts of this case go far beyond neglect and show circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life,” a Chickasaw County sheriff’s deputy wrote in court records seeking charges against the parents.

Sterling was found dead the afternoon of Aug. 30 in the family’s apartment on Hilltop Avenue.

Deputies and medics had been called to the residence on Wilson Street on a 911 call at 12:57 p.m. that day and found the baby deceased in his powered infant swing.

According to court records, Koehn told authorities Harris had fed the infant around 9 a.m. and everything was fine, and then he checked again at 11 or 11:30 a.m. and the child was dead.

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During the autopsy, the medical examiner found maggots in the boy’s clothing and skin, and the maggots’ development was studied by a forensic entomologist to determine a timeline.

“The study of the maggots growth and development indicated that the child had not had a diaper change, bath, or been removed from the seat in over a week,” the deputy wrote in court records.

Authorities said this was inconsistent with the parent’s statements, and the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death was a homicide with the cause of death being failure to provide critical care.

The investigation into the case involved the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the state medical examiner’s office and the Chickasaw County medical examiner.

Deputies said they were assisted Wednesday in locating the couple by deputies in Mitchell and Fayette counties, as well as the Charles City Police Department. Where they were arrested was not disclosed.

Chief Deputy Reed Palo asked anyone with further information regarding the case to contact him at (641) 394-3121.

Koehn was arrested in September 2016 for allegedly bypassing the water meter to his mobile home in Riceville after utility workers turned off water service for nonpayment. A charge of second-degree theft was dropped in February after he agreed to pay the city of Riceville $1,600 in restitution plus court costs. In August, the Mitchell County Attorney’s Office asked the court to find him in contempt because he hadn’t been making payments on the agreement.

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Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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