Iowa mother and grandfather charged after newborn baby killed on road
DES MOINES, Iowa — Two people have been arrested for murder after a newborn baby was found dead on a highway in Iowa, police said Monday.
Norwalk City Police were contacted on March 8 with concerns about a child’s safety, and police have opened an investigation with the state’s Criminal Investigation Division, according to a news release. Law enforcement and volunteers found a deceased newborn along the road in Warren County.
Law enforcement determined Megan K. Staude, 25, of Norwalk, gave birth to the baby in late February. She and her 64-year-old father, Rodney A. Staude, allegedly left the baby to die and then “got rid of it,” according to the statement. They were both arrested for murder.
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The newborn was put in a trash bag while still alive
Megan Staude and Rodney Staude allegedly placed the little boy in a trash bag while he was still alive and then threw the bag in a ditch, according to newly released court documents.
On Monday, Megan Staude reportedly confessed to police that she gave birth at home on February 24, put her son in a cubicle and failed to provide care, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case against her father. Megan Staude reportedly told police that after two days she and her father placed the baby in a trash bag while he was still alive.
Rodney Staude also reportedly confessed the same to police. He said they disposed of the body while it was in the bag, according to the complaint.
“It’s just a tragic set of circumstances on several levels,” said Norwalk Police Chief Greg Staples, who declined to comment on specifics of the case. “This baby didn’t have a choice to decide his own fate and now there are people in jail because of it.”
Mother and grandfather lied to police, authorities say
Newly released court documents detail how the mother and grandfather allegedly lied to police about the newborn’s death in the days before he was arrested.
Law enforcement officials responded to a call from co-workers of Megan Staude on March 8 regarding the health and safety of her newborn baby, according to the criminal complaint. At the time, Staude reportedly told Norwalk police that the baby died on the way to hospital and that she buried him in St. Johns Cemetery in Cumming.
After searching the cemetery, the complaint says officers “did not notice any disturbed ground or signs of a reburial.”
Rodney Staude initially told law enforcement he was unaware of the baby’s death, the complaint states. But a day later, he reportedly told authorities that his daughter had given birth a few weeks earlier but the baby had died on the way to the Des Moines area hospital. He said he then placed the deceased baby in a plastic bag and dumped the body “in a ditch south of Norwalk,” according to the complaint. He took the police to where, with the help of a dead dog, they discovered the body of the deceased newborn in a tied garbage bag.
Police issued a search warrant for the family home in Norwalk, where they found signs that a birth had taken place there. A witness also shared a text conversation with Megan Staude, in which the witness asked her “was the baby alive when you left her?” and she responded “a bit,” the complaint says.
The results of an autopsy are awaited and the investigation is continuing.
The Staudes were incarcerated in the Warren County Jail on Monday. Rodney Staude has $1 million bail. Information about Megan Staude’s obligations was not immediately available. If found guilty, they face a life sentence.
Iowa’s Newborn Shelter Law
Under Iowa law, a parent, or someone with a parent’s permission, can leave a baby for up to 90 days in a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment. , according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
A parent can also call 911 and refer the child to a first responder. Parents who abandon their children under the Safe Haven Act are not required to provide identification.
Iowa’s shelter law has been in place since 2002 after a Chelsea teenager gave birth and left the newborn in a snow bank the year before.
More than 50 newborns have been given shelter status under the law, according to the Department of Social Services.
Follow Francesca Block on Twitter at @francescablock3. Follow Chris Higgins on Twitter @chris_higgins_.