During a court hearing on Monday, prosecutors charged that a Massachusetts mom locked her children in the bedroom of her filthy Blackstone home, located on the border with Rhode Island, in order to hide them from her boyfriend, who lived in the house with her and her children. Three of the children died, and two others showed signs of neglect. The bedroom in which the children had been hidden was described as rat-infested and covered with soiled diapers.
The mother, Erika Murray, had seven children. The bodies of three were discovered in a closet of her Massachusetts home in September after a neighbor reported that a 5-month-old baby and a 3-year-old girl were inside of the squalid home. Police officers, clad in hazmat suits, searched the premises, which they described as filthy, and discovered the bodies.
During her arraignment in the Worcester County, Massachusetts, District Court, Murray, 31, entered a plea of not guilty to nine charges that include first degree murder for the deaths of her first two children and fetal concealment for three. She has also been charged with animal cruelty, assault and battery and reckless endangerment. She made no other statements or showed any emotion during the arraignment, which lasted for 23 minutes.
John E. Bradley, Jr., assistant district attorney of Worcester, Massachusetts, said that while she hid her children from her live-in boyfriend, Murray neglected to provide them with food or basic care. The four children discovered alive in the home had feces all over them, said prosecutors. A 3-year-old girl was unable to hear until the maggots inside of her ears were removed. A 5-month-old baby also showed signs of neglect. Only the two older children, 10 and 13, appeared to have not been abused, say prosecutors.
Prosecutors said that Murray had told them that one of the babies lived for three weeks. Nothing but a skeleton with the umbilical cord and placenta attached and wearing a onesie and a diaper remained of one of the children.
Because of financial issues, Raymond Rivera, Murray’s boyfriend, and Murray decided to not have additional children after the first two were born. In spite of this decision, according to the Boston Globe, they took no precautions against it, which led Murray to become pregnant an additional five times in the next seven-year period. Fearing Rivera’s anger, Murray concealed her pregnancies from him and gave birth to the infants while alone in her bathtub. She hid the children in a bedroom upstairs and forbade Rivera to come upstairs.
Keith Halpern, Murray’s defense attorney, said that his client is mentally ill, but did not murder her babies. He believes that if she had indeed killed three of her children, there would have been no reason for her to stop at three. In addition, he said that a cause of death for the two babies has not even been established. He believes the fact that all of the dead infants were wearing some sort of clothing points to behavior displayed by a mother grieving over a stillborn child.
Superior Court Judge James Lemire did not grant Murray’s request to live with a relative while awaiting trial and ordered that she be held without bail. Her older children, who were taken from the Massachusetts home in September, are staying with relatives, and her younger kids are in the custody of the child welfare department.
For his part, Rivera, 38, said that he was unaware that Murray had even given birth to his children. CNN affiliate WHDH in Massachusetts reported that DNA tests were conducted which proved Rivera had fathered all seven children. Both Rivera and Murray say that he was never aware of the three babies that died in the home, nor was he aware of two of the surviving children, although they lived in a 1,150-square-foot home. He faces charges of assault and battery on a child which resulted in substantial bodily injury, cruelty to animals, cultivating marijuana and reckless endangerment. He is currently being held on bail of $100,000.
Murray is due in Massachusetts court again on Feb. 4. Her home was condemned and then demolished in October.
By Jennifer Pfalz