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Newborn found dead in Iowa ditch; mother and grandfather charged with murder

The mother and grandfather of a newborn found dead in a ditch in Iowa have been charged with first-degree murder, and court documents say they told investigators the baby was still alive when they put him in a trash bag and abandoned him.

Megan K. Staude, 25, told police the child was born at home on Feb. 24, according to a police affidavit. She told authorities that she put him in a box and didn't provide any care for two days before she and her father Rodney A. Staude, 64, put him in the bag.

Newborn Death Charges Iowa
This mugshot provided by Warren County Jail on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Indianola, Iowa, shows Megan Staude.  / AP

Rodney Staude also confessed and said he helped his daughter dispose of the bag in a ditch near Norwalk, according to the documents.

Both the Staudes initially told police the baby died on the way to the hospital after it was born, authorities said. Megan Staude said she buried him in a cemetery in Cumming, Iowa, but authorities found no evidence of a fresh grave at the cemetery.

Law enforcement officers received a tip from Megan Staude's co-workers on March 8, leading to the discovery of the body. On March 13, a witness showed authorities a text conversation with Megan Staude, in which the witness asked her, "Was the baby alive when you left him?" and she replied, "A little," the complaint says.

"It's just a tragic set of circumstances on a number of levels," Norwalk Police Chief Greg Staples told The Des Moines Register. "That baby didn't have the choice to decide his own fate and now there's people in jail because of it."

The results of an autopsy are pending and the investigation is ongoing.

Rodney and Megan Staude are each being held in the Warren County jail on $1 million bond.

Authorities told the Register they don't know who the child's father is.

CBS affiliate KCCI-TV reports that the city of Norwalk says the house where the baby was born has been a public nuisance for months. The city claims the home is deteriorating and not safe to occupy, the station reported.

Neighbors told KCCI that the house has been in bad shape for a long time.

"Run down, kind of just in disrepair," Dayce Gute said.

Iowa has a "Safe Haven" law that allows someone to leave an infant up to 3 months old at a hospital or health care facility without facing legal action.

Safe Haven babies are then placed with foster or adoptive families.

According to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, "A parent may also contact 911 and relinquish physical custody of an infant up to 90 days old to a first responder of the 911 call."

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