A 4-month-old baby found dead inside a motorized swing last year died because he had “diaper rash,” a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday at the murder trial of the infant’s father, according to multiple reports.
On Aug. 30, 2017, authorities arrived to the home of Cheyanne Harris, 21, and Zachary Koehn, 28, and found the lifeless body of Sterling Koehn in the swing, according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE. Both parents have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges and are being tried separately.
According to autopsy results, medical examiners found “maggots in various stages of development” in Sterling’s “clothing and on his skin.”
Prosecutor Coleman McAllister, an assistant Iowa attorney general, told jurors that Sterling had worn the same diaper for nine to 14 days when medics were called to the family’s Alta Vista, Iowa, apartment, reports the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier newspaper.
The diaper’s contents irritated the baby’s skin, causing it to rupture, after which E. coli bacteria set in, McAllister said.
“He died of diaper rash. That’s right, diaper rash,” McAllister said during opening statements, reports the Associated Press.
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Authorities believe Sterling, who weighed less than five pounds at death, was left in the baby swing for over a week, and that he was not bathed or changed that entire time, according to the criminal complaint.
“The facts of this case go far beyond neglect and show circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life,” Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Reed Palo wrote in the criminal complaint.
On Tuesday, Palo told jurors he found maggots and larva when the medical examiner began to remove the layers of urine-soaked blankets and clothing from the child, the Courier reports.
Zachary’s defense attorney Les Blair III told jurors that Sterling was not the victim of a crime but rather a tragedy, according to the newspaper.
“Nothing anybody says throughout this trial will soften that,” he said.
The trial is expected to continue through the week.