WORCESTER, Mass. (CBS/AP) — A Massachusetts woman has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder after the skeletal remains of three babies were found in her squalid home.
Thirty-one-year-old Erika Murray was arraigned Monday in Worcester Superior Court. A judge ordered Murray held without bail.READ MORE: Massachusetts To Provide Weekly At-Home COVID Tests For Students, Staff At Schools
The mother of seven children — four living, three deceased — originally had been charged with fetal death concealment after the remains were found in her Blackstone home in September. She pleaded not guilty to that lower charge and has been jailed on $1 million bail.
A grand jury indicted Murray on the nine counts earlier this month. The charges 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.
Prosecutors in court said that Murray admitted to giving birth to five babies in seven years, all in the home’s lone bathtub. A prosecutor also said that a neglected 3-year-old had to have maggots cleaned from her ears in order to hear.
Two dead babies were discovered in closets dressed in onesies and diapers, according to prosecutors. They said Murray admitted that one had lived up to three weeks.
Murray’s lawyer, Keith Halpern, has said there’s no evidence she caused the deaths of the babies.
The children “weren’t the only captives in this house,” he said after Monday’s hearing. “She was too. … She was mentally ill to the point where she was incapable of doing anything. The house looked the way it looked because she was sick.”
Halpern continued: “If she was determined to murder these children, why did they find three corpses and not five? … It does not make sense to portray her as a serial child killer.”READ MORE: Massachusetts Reports 56,489 New COVID Cases Over Multiple Days, 47 Additional Deaths
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. He claims he lived in the basement and was unaware of the conditions in the rest of the house, a point that prosecutors have challenged.
Rivera, 38, is being held on $100,000 bail and is due back in court on Jan. 14.
State police entered the Blackstone home on Sept. 10 to check on the welfare of two children that a neighbor had found neglected.
Police found the house contained dead animals, was infested with rodents and insects and was piled high with dirty diapers and trash.
Over the course of two days, investigators found the remains of three infants in bedroom closets. The two murder charges that Murray faces relate to two of the dead infants, which were found wearing diapers and one-piece infant outfits.
Workers in hazmat suits spent days cleaning out the house, which was eventually condemned and demolished.
Murray’s four living children, ranging in age from 5 months old to 13 years old, remain in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families.
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