Woman Pleads Not Guilty After Police Find Three Dead Babies in Closets, One Stuffed in Backpack

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 30, 2014   |   2:19PM   |   Boston, MA

A Massachusetts woman has pleaded not guilty after authorities found the bodies of three dead babies in closets in her home. One of the babies reportedly lived for hours after birth.

Erika Murray told police one of the three dead babies found in her squalid home was born alive and lived for a number of days before she discovered the infant dead. The 31-year-old reportedly told police she put the baby down for a nap in a bassinet in the basement and returned later to find the baby dead.

The baby was described in court by a prosecutor during her trial this week as having a “fairly full head of hair” and the court heard that that baby’s dead body had been stuffed in a backpack and tossed into a closet. The baby was one of the two deceased infants dressed in diapers and onesies that authorities found.

erikamurrayThe medical examiner’s office is working to determine the infants’ causes of death.

Murray on Monday pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, according to news reports.

Erika Murray, 31, spoke clearly as she was arraigned Monday on nine charges. Judge James Lemire ordered her held without bail. Her next court date is Feb. 4. The mother of seven children — four living, three deceased — had originally been charged with fetal-death concealment. She had pleaded not guilty to that lower charge and has since been jailed on $1-million bail.

Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted Murray on the nine counts. The charges also include two counts of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury, two counts of reckless endangerment of a child, two counts of cruelty to animals and one count of concealing a fetal death.

Murray’s lawyer, Keith Halpern, has said there’s no evidence she caused the deaths of the three babies.

Prosecutors said Murray gave birth to the five youngest children in the house’s bathroom, attempting to hide their existence from their father because he did not want to have more children. She appears to have kept them almost entirely in upstairs bedrooms filled with trash.

The two murder charges relate to two dead infants, who were found wearing diapers and one-piece infant outfits. The other set of remains was a fetus, authorities have said. All three were found in bedroom closets.

Raymond Rivera, Murray’s boyfriend and the father of the children, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including two counts of assault and battery causing substantial bodily injury and two counts of reckless endangerment of a child.

Authorities rescued Murray’s four children from her filthy home on August 28 after a neighbor discovered the unfathomable squalor and the 3-year-old and 5-month-old daughters Murray kept hidden in her home.  The woman also has a 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Investigators found the remains of the three infants in the older children’s bedroom closets when they returned with search warrants in September. One of the dead babies had an umbilical cord and the remains of a placenta still attached.

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The 31-year-old’s attorney, Keith Halpern, said his client told investigators she placed one of her babies in a bassinet to take a nap, according to the Boston Herald. When she returned about two hours later, the child was dead, Murray allegedly told police.

Investigators found one baby in a backpack inside a bedroom closet and the remains of two other babies in another bedroom closet, the AP reported. Prosecutor John Bradley said on Tuesday that since the remains of two of Murray’s babies were wearing diapers and clothing, this indicates they were not stillborn.

“They had diapers on. They had onesies on. They were clothed, which would certainly seem to prove that at least two of the babies were alive for some period of time before they died,” Bradley said according to the Boston Herald.

But Halpern said just because two of babies were clothed does not mean they were alive at birth. Murray, who has four other live children, has shown signs of mental illness and needs to undergo a mental health evaluation, Halpern said.

Officials said the dead baby had the placenta and umbilical cord still attached; a three-year-old could neither talk nor walk, was severely malnourished and had maggots in her ears; and a nearly six-month-old appeared to have spent much of her young life on her back.