WORCESTER, Mass. (AP/WHDH) — A Massachusetts woman who lived in a squalid, vermin-infested home where authorities found the remains of three babies was cleared Thursday of second-degree murder.
Judge Janet Kenton-Walker said prosecutors did not prove that Erika Murray caused the death of one of the babies whom she had been charged with killing. But the judge found Murray guilty of animal cruelty and assault and battery on a child.
Kenton-Walker called the case “senseless” and “tragic,” but said she had to be guided by the evidence rather than her emotions.
Murray was arrested in 2014 after the babies’ bodies were discovered inside closets of her filthy home in Blackstone, Massachusetts, about 50 miles southwest of Boston along the Rhode Island border.
Four living children were also removed from the home, which was filled with rodents, dead animals, dirty diapers and trash.
Murray’s attorney said she suffered from mental illness and argued there’s no evidence she caused the babies’ deaths, suggesting they could have been stillborn.
She was initially charged in two of the babies’ deaths, but the judge dropped one of the murder counts, saying 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 she agreed with prosecutors the baby was born alive but said there was no evidence the baby would have lived if Murray had called for help.
“Speculation that the baby might have survived if she had summoned medical help or performed CPR does not satisfy the Commonwealth’s burden,” the judge said.
The children first came to the attention of police when a 10-year-old boy who lived in the house went to a neighbor and asked for her help to get a baby to stop crying. The neighbor went into the house and found a crying baby on a bed, covered in feces, and no adults around.
Police were called and officials removed four living children — the 10-year-old boy as well as 13-year-old, 3-year-old and 6-month-old girls — from the home.
Authorities later found the remains of the three dead babies inside cardboard boxes in bedroom closets. Two of them were wearing diapers and clothing and the third still had the placenta attached, authorities said.
“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. We appreciate all the time and effort the judge put into her decision in this case. The court has spoken.
In a statement, Worcester County District Attorney Tim Connoly said, “I would like to thank the Blackstone Police Department, the State police detectives and all of the state police employees who worked so hard on this case. And also, I’d like to thank our prosecutor Chris Hodgens for all his hard work.”
Murray is due back in court on July 11 for a sentencing hearing.
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