ALTA VISTA, Iowa -- As two Alta Vista parents remain behind bars, charged with the August murder of their four-month-old son Sterling Koehn, health care providers in Iowa are left wondering what more could have been done.
"I think figuring out where those opportunities are and using that tug on out heartstrings to make sure that we prevent it from happening again," said KellyAnn Light-McGroary, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare Community Plan of Iowa.
She says there are a number of programs they offer to parents with newborns to ensure their health.
"We really focus on getting moms and babies in for their post-natal checks, for their well-baby visits, because that is where you identify opportunities to intervene early."
Iowa law does not require parents to bring infants back to the hospital even though Sterling, at seven pounds, was well below the fifth percentile for a four-month-old.
McGroary said, "We don't have the ability to mandate that, but a lot of times really what the key is is education. I think most people want to do all of the right things for their children but don't understand what opportunities are there for them."
Documents show for Zachary Koehn, being a parent was nothing new. A report of guardian document from 2014 in Mitchell County shows Zachary has another son named Kaden. The guardianship of his then 3-year-old fell in the hands of the child's grandparents, Willis and Marilyn Koehn. The document also states Kaden was a typical 3-year-old and in good mental and physical condition.
A pretrial services document states Cheyanne Harris has been unemployed and living with her mother in Riceville. It also says Cheyenne admitted she is currently in substance abuse treatment and last used methamphetamine 2 to 3 weeks ago. She says she was also being treated for PTSD. Another document filed with the Chickasaw County Clerk of District Court shows Cheyenne has no job and does not own anything worth more than $100.
A pre-trial services document reveals that Zachary Koehn is a road truck driver who just began a new job. Like Cheyenne, Zachary admitted to a history of substance abuse and is also in substance abuse treatment. He said he last used methamphetamine two months ago. Based on the documents, both parents could have been using drugs in August, when the baby was found dead wearing a diaper that had not been changed in a week.
"I think it's devastating. It makes me, as a physician and as a mom, thinking about where the opportunities where the parents, the providers, the health care system, our society had to intervene for that child," said McGroary.
Zachary's parents refused to comment. When Channel 13 requested to speak to them over the phone, they hung up.