Neglected 4-month-old Baby Boy Found Covered in Maggots 'Died of Diaper Rash'

Zachary Koehn, 29
Assistant Iowa attorney general Coleman McAllister told jurors that the child, Sterling Koehn, died of malnutrition, dehydration and infection. The child’s father, Zachary Koehn, 29, is now on trial. Zachary Koehn/Mugshot/Chickasaw County Sheriff's Office

A 4-month-old baby found dead with maggots in his clothes last year had been neglected and was killed by symptoms linked to extreme "diaper rash." That's according to a prosecutor Tuesday during the murder trial of the child's father, Zachary Koehn, 29.

Assistant Iowa attorney general Coleman McAllister told jurors that the child, Sterling Koehn, died of malnutrition, dehydration and infection, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

The content of the baby's diaper irritated his skin, which broke and resulted in E.coli bacteria. "He died of diaper rash. That's right, diaper rash," McAllister said in his opening statement.

In a testimony that corroborated the police report at the time of the child's death—in August 2017—the prosecution said that Sterling's diaper, which was full of feces, had attracted bugs that then laid eggs and resulted in maggots. The initial police report from last year stated the child's body had maggots "in various stages of development in his clothing and on his skin."

The father and mother, Cheyanne Harris, aged 21, were both arrested and charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. Harris is being tried separately.

Last August, Chickasaw County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call from Zachary Koehn, who requested an ambulance. Sterling was found in a baby swing in a bedroom separate from where the father, mother and their older child—a daughter—slept. The baby had already died.

An autopsy confirmed he was under seven pounds at the time of his death. The child had not had a diaper change, bath or been removed from the swing in over a week, police said.

The State Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.

It ruled: "The cause of death was a failure to provide critical care. The facts of this case go far beyond neglect and show circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life."

At this week's trial, first responder Toni Friedrich confirmed it was too late to perform CPR on the baby. When she moved his blanket gnats flew up, her testimony said. "The whole room was hot...and there was a stench of urine," Friedrich said (via the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier).

On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from state social worker Sheila Schroeder, who denied being aware a test on the baby's umbilical cord tested positive for drugs after birth. After the child's death, the couple's daughter, then aged 2, was taken into foster care.

The trial continues this week in Mount Pleasant after being moved from Chickasaw County due to the amount of publicity surrounding the case, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.