Warning: Some of the details in the story below are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.
A judge heard closing arguments Friday in the trial of a woman who faces a murder charge after authorities found three dead babies at her squalid home in Blackstone, Massachusetts in 2014.
Erika Murray, 35, faces several serious charges, including a second-degree murder charge, for one of the three dead infants found in closets in the home.
Judge Janet Kenton-Walker earlier threw out another murder charge, saying the prosecutor didn’t prove one of the infants was ever alive.
Murray also faces assault and battery charges for leaving her three-year-old and five-month-old daughters – whom she had raised in secret – in the home alone, covered in feces.
The defense continued to argue in its closing argument that Murray is mentally ill – while the prosecutor argued she knew what she was doing was wrong.
Judge Janet Kenton-Walker said she would issue a verdict at a later date.
On Friday, child, adolescent and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Fabian Saleh said Murray presented herself well when he interviewed her October 2017 and January 2018.
“Surprisingly, there was no evidnce of symptoms consistent with a major mental health issue,” he said.
Saleh said Murray’s boyfriend, Ramon Rivera, was allegedly verbally and emotionally abusive. He also called Rivera “passive” since he would reportedly retreat to his basement and smoke marijuana.
The witness said Murray did well in jail, despite insults from other inmates.
“She was joking, doing yoga, laughing frequently with cell mates…she wasn’t moved from Blackstone to a resort…she was called a child killer, loser,” Saleh said. “Despite all that, she did well.”
Saleh said Murray was well aware of her actions when she concealed her pregnanices, births and bodies of the infants. He said the defendant didn’t admit any of it at first, “but little by little acknowledged it.”
The defense rested its case on Thursday after questioning three doctors. A pediatrician described how the 3-year-old and 5-month-old girls who were found in the home by a neighbor were impacted by alleged neglect at the hands of Murray.
Prosecutors suggested the children likely suffered from vitamin D deficiency because they “never left her home.” The baby had a flattened head, which suggests she spent much of her time laying on her back and the toddler showed signs of autism, according to Dr. Howard Kay, who examined the medical records of the two girls.
Kay also said the baby didn’t have the muscle tone a typical infant her age would have. He said that was resolved within the six weeks she was discharged.
The trial began on June 4, with the first witness describing the filthy conditions and discovery of the two children.
Neighbor Betsy Brown found the girls after her son called to ask for her help in getting a baby to stop crying. She testified that she didn’t know of any babies in the neighborhood.
As soon as she opened the door to the home, she said, “I could hear the crying, screaming, babies crying… you could clearly hear children in distress.” She said the smell in the home was “overcoming, I can’t even describe it, it was a horrible, horrible smell, there was trash and stuff everywhere, you really couldn’t see the floor.”
Brown began to cry as she described the room where she found one infant. She described the room as “dirty, diapers, lots of dirty diapers, there were bottles with maggots in them, it was dark, very dark, it was horrible.”
Blackstone Acting Police Chief Gregory Gilmore described how after just 15 minutes in the home, investigators were covered in fleas and other insects.
“The investigators began to notice bugs or flying insects, fleas began to collect on our clothing. There was some further concern about our health,” he said. The chief said he and another officer were eventually forced to go outside to decontaminate.
The house was covered in feces and urine and infested by flies, maggots and other insects, according to several people who testified.
William Walsh, chairman of Blackstone’s Board of Health, said the conditions were so bad that a company that cleans up bloody crime scenes said it was too filthy to clean up and it had to be torn down instead.
Murray is a mother of seven, who gave birth to her last five children in the squalid home. The bodies of the three infants that died were discovered by authorities who responded to the house. Their remains were tucked inside cardboard boxes found in two closets.
A state trooper went upstairs and opened a closet, according to prosecutors. There, they found a dead baby with the placenta still attached. Near the infant was a dead dog in a bag.
Prosecutors said a second dead baby was found nearby and he or she was “diapered and fully clothed, but they were skeletal remains.” The third deceased infant was found in a closet in another room. That child was also diapered and fully clothed.
For live updates on the trial, click here for NBC10 Boston reporter Alysha Palumbo’s Twitter feed.
This post was originally posted at http://www.necn.com/news/new-england/judge-hears-closing-argument-house-horror-blackstone-511291231.html.