This story contains graphic descriptions.
A couple in northern Iowa are accused of holding their newborn daughter underwater until she drowned because they were worried the infant would be taken away if authorities found she “had methamphetamine in her system,” police allege in court documents.
Brandon Thoma, 31, and Taylor Blaha, 24, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kayleen Lee Blaha, whose remains have yet to be found. Thoma, who allegedly hid the body in a wooded area, is also charged with abuse of a corpse.
A Iowa Department of Human Services caseworker’s tip on Nov. 22 led police to Blaha, who had gone to a hospital and reported that she gave birth at home and that the baby’s body had been buried somewhere unknown, according to an arrest affidavit. It said that Blaha then told a detective that she discovered her pregnancy in April, and that both she and Thoma tried and failed to cause a miscarriage.
Blaha gave birth in her bathroom on Nov. 16. She told the detective that they planned to let her sister adopt the child, who “was born alive, crying, moving its arms and legs, and opening her eyes allowing Blaha to see that Kayleen had brown eyes,” according to the affidavit.
At one point, Blaha reportedly told the detective, Thoma gave her “methamphetamine to help her ease the pains associated with the birth.” The affidavit did not make clear whether she allegedly ingested the drug before or after the birth, but Thoma told police they feared methamphetamine would be discovered in Kayleen’s system.
Kayleen’s wailing made Blaha and Thoma “nervous” that neighbors would call the police, the affidavit stated. To stop her cries, it said, “the two placed Kayleen in the bathtub, which was about half full of water, and placed both of their hands on the baby’s chest, forcing her underwater, ultimately killing her.”
Thoma wrapped the body in trash bags and “at least one towel,” and stuffed it into a black backpack, which he carted out of the apartment—later returning with an empty backpack, Blaha told police.
They kept the cord
The couple told police that they kept part of Kayleen’s umbilical cord “to remember the baby.” A search of their apartment a day later turned up “an object consistent with an umbilical cord or remains of a human placenta” inside a dresser drawer, police said.
But an extensive excavation of the site where Thoma said he buried Kayleen, and a nearby landfill, turned up nothing.
Fort Dodge Police Captain Dennis Quinn said Thursday that investigators searching for Kayleen’s body hadn’t had “a good night’s rest” in more than two weeks, according to KCCI. “It is important for us to do everything we can to try to locate the infant,” he said.
Blaha and Thoma are being held in lieu of $1 million bonds. A lawyer for Thoma told the Associated Press he plans to plead not guilty while Blaha does not yet have an attorney assigned to her case.