A Massachusetts woman who pleaded not guilty after authorities found the bodies of three dead babies in closets in her home has lost custody of her other children. One of the three babies she killed 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 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.
The medical examiner’s office is working to determine the infants’ causes of death.
Murray pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, according to news reports. Now, in the latest in this infanticide case, officials have taken her other children into custody:
At the arraignment Monday of a mother charged with murdering two infants and concealing the death of another, a prosecutor detailed a litany of horrors that the woman’s living children had suffered while living in a squalid Blackstone house infested with vermin and filled with dead animals, trash and dirty diapers.
Erika Murray’s two youngest children, ages 3 years and 5 months, who were taken into state custody, had been “profoundly neglected,” Assistant District Attorney John Bradley told Worcester Superior Court Judge James Lemire.
The 3-year-old couldn’t walk, talk, lacked muscle tone and had “severe hearing difficulties,” which pediatricians at UMass Memorial Medical Center attributed to the maggots living in her ears, Bradley said.
The 5-month-old was “severely malnourished” and seemed to have “spent the majority of her young life on her back,” he said.
Authorities first became aware of the filthy house on Aug. 28 when a neighbor, who went there to help stop a baby’s crying, found the 5-month-old girl lying on a mattress covered in trash, clothes and fecal matter. In another trash-filled bedroom the 3-year-old girl was found covered in feces and wearing a soiled diaper, Bradley said.
Those children, as well as a 10-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl, were put into the custody of the state Department of Children and Families.
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.
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.