Dad of infant son who was found dead in a maggot-infested baby swing sentenced to life in jail

An Iowa man has been convicted of the first-degree murder of his infant son, Stirling.

Zachary Koehn, from Chickasaw County Iowa, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his 4-month old son, Sterling, reported CBS on December 4, 2018.

The sentencing comes after the 29-year-old was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder in November. Koehn's jury took under an hour to deliver the unanimous guilty verdict. 

"The baby’s eyes were open, and it was a blank stare.” 

Toni Friedrich, CBS, December 4, 2018.


Baby Sterling was found dead on August 30, 2017, by medics called to Koehn's apartment. The infant was found on a baby swing and wearing a maggot-infested diaper that hadn't been changed in at least 2 weeks.

Toni Friedrich, who is a nurse with the county rescue squad EMT was the first to arrive at the apartment after Koehn had called 911 to report the baby's death. She testified that Koehn showed no emotion when he led her to the baby’s body in a dark, hot bedroom.


The medical examiner determined that Sterling Koehn had died of malnutrition, dehydration and an E. coli infection caused by a rash from a soiled diaper that wasn't changed for up to two weeks. Sterling's weight at the time of his death was only a few ounces above his birth weight.


At his trial, Koehn's attorney said that Sterling's death was a tragedy, but not a crime and that the defendant's neglect of Baby Sterling was due to his problems with drugs, and not malice. He placed the blame for the tragedy with Sterling's mother, 21-year-old Cheyanne Harris.

The medical examiner determined that Sterling Koehn had died of malnutrition, dehydration and an E. coli infection caused by a rash from a soiled diaper that wasn't changed for up to two weeks.


Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister refuted this claim, pointing out that the defendant was an experienced father and that his 2-year-old daughter, also in the apartment, was well cared for and in perfect health. There was money in the apartment that could have been used for formula and diapers if the defendant had so wished it.

Zachary Koehn will be spending the rest of his natural life in prison for his crime, and Sterling's mother, Cheyanne Harris.will also be facing first-degree murder charges in January 2019.

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In another horrific child murder case, a Baltimore daycare worker was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder of 8-month-old Reese Annette Bowman

Leah Walden, 24, was sentenced by Judge Althea Handy of the Baltimore Circuit Court, who had been unable to hold back tears during the Prosecution's presentation of the evidence.

Walden had been caught on the surveillance tapes violently snatching the baby and slapping her, before piling blankets on top of the tiny body and smothering her with a pillow. The tape was shown to the court, and the Judge wept openly.

Walden had previously expressed antagonism towards the tiny baby telling a co-worker:

“Girl, I’m frustrated … I’m sick of this little b---. I hate this little b--- … She makes me want to punch her in the face.”

Walden pleaded guilty to deliberately and wilfully killing the baby and was convicted of murder in the first degree. Judge Handy stressed that Walden had not acted on impulse, but had considered her actions and carried out a plan:

“You thought about it, even though it might have been brief. Do you understand that?”

Walden was sentenced to life in prison, but she will be eligible for parole when she is 59.

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