Massachusetts woman whose dead babies were found in her rat-infested home cleared of second-degree murder
Erika Murray was convicted of lesser charges. According to her attorney, she suffered from mental illness and also argued that there was no proof that she had caused the death of the babies
Erika Murray, a 35-year old woman, who lived in a squalid, vermin-infested home where authorities found remains of three babies, has been cleared of second-degree murder but convicted on lesser charges on Thursday, June 20. According to judge Janet Kenton-Walker, the prosecutors could not prove that she caused the death of one of the babies in her home filled with dirty diapers, trash, and rodents.
According to ABC News, Kenton-Walker called the case "senseless" and "tragic", but said she had to be guided by the evidence rather than her emotions. "Regardless of how disturbing the facts surrounding this case are to the community at large and to me as a parent, I cannot take into account those feelings," the judge said.
Murray was found guilty of battery and assault on a child along with animal cruelty and remains in jail while she awaits sentencing, which is slated for July 11. She was arrested in 2014 after the babies' bodies were found inside closets in her Blackstone home in Massachusetts. Four living children were also removed from the house. According to her attorney, she suffered from mental illness and also argued that there was no proof that she had caused the death of the babies. The attorney also suggested that the babies could have been stillborn.
"She is obviously mentally ill or she wouldn't be living in those circumstances," defense attorney Keith Halpern told reporters. Worcester County District Attorney, Joseph Early Jr. said "the court has spoken" and thanked the judge for the effort she put into her decision.
"This was a very hard case with a very difficult set of facts as it always is when dealing with children who are victims. It has emotionally affected many people throughout Worcester County," he said in an emailed statement.
Murray was initially charged in two of the babies' deaths, but the judge dropped one of the murder counts as the prosecutors couldn't prove one of those babies was born alive. Prosecutors had argued that Murray found the other baby blue and not breathing, causing its death by failing to call 911 or perform CPR.
Kenton-Walker said that she agreed with the prosecutors that the baby was born alive, but said there was no evidence that the baby would have lived even if Murray had reached out for help. The judge also found Murray not guilty of reckless endangerment of the two older children in her house, saying that her mental state prevented her from ascertaining the bad home conditions.
Kenton-Walker said Murray was emotionally abused by her boyfriend and had cognitive deficits and a personality disorder, sending her into a depression and her home into squalor. "In her mind, Ms. Murray believed she was a good mother to all her children," the judge said.
The incident first came to the attention of the police when a 10-year old boy living in the home went to a neighbor asking for help to get a baby to stop crying. The neighbor found out a crying baby covered in feces and no adult to look around. Police were called in and the officials removed four living children from the house. Authorities later found the remains of three dead babies inside cardboard boxes placed in the closet.