NEW HAMPTON — A former Alta Vista man who was convicted in the neglect death of his infant son is asking for a new trial.
Attorneys for Zachary Paul Koehn, 29, argue the first-degree murder and child endangerment convictions reached by a Henry County jury during an October trial weren’t backed by the evidence.
Prosecutors said Koehn’s son, 4-month-old Sterling Koehn, was found dead in a swing seat in August 2017, and doctors said he died of dehydration, malnutrition and infection from untreated diaper rash. Authorities said maggots in the baby’s diaper show it hadn’t been changed in more than a week.
Defense attorneys Steven Drahozal and Les Blaire III argued evidence at trial didn’t uncover any acts Koehn took that would have led to the child’s death.
“There is no evidence that the defendant intentionally starved, dehydrated, or otherwise caused S.K.’s death. At best, the evidence showed that the defendant neglected S.K.,” the defense said using Sterling’s initials in a motion for a new trial filed last week. “In other words, at best, the state introduced evidence that the defendant’s inaction rather than actions contributed to S.K.’s death.”
The defense argued that Iowa’s murder statute doesn’t cover inaction.
Koehn’s attorneys went on to argue that evidence at trial showed he traded items for baby care materials, and there were baby care items in their apartment.
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Koehns trial was moved out of Chickasaw County to the Henry County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant because of pretrial publicity surrounding the case.
Koehn took the stand in his own defense, saying he was working third shift driving trucks and didn’t notice Sterling wasn’t being cared for. He said Sterling’s mother, Cheyanne Harris, was the baby’s primary caregiver, and he didn’t suspect she may have been suffering from post-partum depression.
He also said he didn’t change diapers because the odor made him sick but occasionally fed Sterling.
Jurors found him guilty after less than an hour of deliberation.
Harris wasn’t tried with Koehn. A judge approved moving her trial out of Chickasaw County, but a date hasn’t been set.