A 24-year-old mother in Iowa will spend decades behind bars after admitting to killing her newborn baby, drowning the little girl in a bathtub immediately after birth to prevent authorities from finding out she had meth in her system. District Court Judge Christopher C. Polking on Friday ordered Taylor K. Blaha to serve a sentence of 35 to 50 years for the cold-blooded slaying of young Kayleen Lee Blaha last year, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.
Blaha, who had initially been charged with first-degree murder following her December 2022 arrest, reached a deal with prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder in her daughter’s death just before being sentenced.
Kayleen’s father, Brandon Thoma, last month pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment resulting in death and one count of abuse of a corpse. He too had initially been charged with first-degree murder.
“A parent is entrusted to protect, nurture and care for their child,” Judge Polking said to Blaha during Friday’s hearing, according to a report from The Messenger. “You betrayed that trust and instead murdered a helpless newborn baby. While your sentence is mandatory, considering the nature and circumstances of the offense and the need to protect the community and deter others from such crimes, the sentence is still appropriate in the eyes of the court.”
As part of her plea agreement, Blaha was required to address the court and admit her actions on the record.
“On Nov. 16, 2022, in Webster County, Iowa, I gave birth in my apartment to a baby girl. She was born alive,” Blaha said, per the Messenger. “Around the time she was born, I was using methamphetamine. Brandon Thoma convinced me that if DHS found out about my meth use, they would take my son from me and I would never see him again. He convinced me that the only way out of this was to drown the baby in the bathtub. He told me what to do and how to do it. When I tried to take my hands off her, he would put my hands back on her and encourage me to keep going. She died as a result.”
According to a sworn affidavit of probable cause obtained by Law&Crime, Blaha on Nov. 22, 2022, went to Unity Point Trinity Regional Medical Center where she met with an employee at the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Blaha allegedly said that she “gave birth to a baby at her residence and that it had been buried at an undisclosed location.”
The IDHS employee contacted the Webster County Law Enforcement Center and a detective with the sheriff’s office responded to the scene.
In an interview with the detective, Blaha said she found out she was pregnant with Thoma’s child in April 2022. The two already have a 2-year-old son together. She explained that she gave birth to a baby girl in the bathroom of their apartment located in the 900 block of Central Avenue in Fort Dodge on Nov. 16.
“She stated that Thoma was in the bedroom of the apartment when she gave birth but that once the baby was born, he came into the bathroom and helped her get from where she was sitting on the toilet to a position sitting inside the bathtub with the baby,” the affidavit states. “She advises the two named the baby Kayleen Lee Blaha and that she was born alive, crying, moving its arms and legs, and opening her eyes allowing Blaha to see that Kayleen had brown eyes.”
Blaha allegedly said she asked Thoma for methamphetamine to help assuage the pain from giving birth and he provided her with the drugs. She told the detective they had “no intentions” of keeping the child and planned to let Blaha’s sister adopt the girl. She added that Thoma severed the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors and cut “sections of the cord to be kept to remember the baby.”
However, Blaha told authorities that she and Thoma soon became nervous their neighbors would hear Kayleen crying and alert law enforcement. They were scared that if law enforcement came to the home and found methamphetamine in the baby’s system they would lose custody of their 2-year-old son.
“Blaha went on to explain that in order to stop the crying 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,” the affidavit states. “Blaha also explained that Thoma demonstrated to her how to do this. Blaha advised that once the baby was held under water, Thoma removed the baby from the bathtub and sat her outside of the tub before ultimately placing her in a plastic storage container, wrapping her in multiple layers of trash bags, and then placing her inside of a black backpack that he carried her out of the apartment in.”
While Kayleen’s body was never recovered, investigators executed a search warrant on their apartment and recovered what appeared to be the portion of the umbilical cord that Thoma had as a keepsake.
“This case and that of the co-defendant, Brandon Thoma, is certainly heartbreaking,” Assistant Attorney General Ryan Baldridge reportedly said after Blaha’s sentencing. “It’s difficult and tragic any time a life is lost, but in this instance that life was as innocent and as helpless as they come. The agreement with Blaha permitted the state to have a solid case against Thoma while also ensuring that Blaha suffered a consequence for her abhorrent conduct.”
Records show that Blaha was also ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to her daughter’s legal heirs.
Thoma is currently scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 1.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]