Lawyer: Mom in dead infants case in prison unit

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2014 6:37 PM
Lawyer: Mom in dead infants case in prison unit

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts woman arrested after the bodies of three infants were found in the squalid, vermin-infested home where she lives is now in a prison treatment unit for inmates who could pose a danger to themselves, her lawyer said Monday.

Erika Murray, 31, faces charges including fetal death concealment, witness intimidation and permitting substantial injury to a child. Not guilty pleas were entered for her on Friday.

Four other children, ages 13, 10, 3 and 6 months, were removed from the Blackstone home by the state's child welfare agency about two weeks before a police search revealed the remains of the infants, officials said.

Murray's court-appointed lawyer, Keith Halpern, said his client was placed in a treatment center at the state prison for women in Framingham that provides additional protection for those who could pose a suicide risk. Halpern has said repeatedly that he believes his client suffers from a mental illness, though he has not speculated on the nature of her condition.

"It's kind of obvious that many things going on in her head were not real," he said.

Expanding on comments made in an earlier Associated Press interview, Halpern said Monday he was skeptical whether forensic testing of the infants' remains could conclusively determine whether the babies were stillborn or died after birth. He maintained that he was hopeful the tests would reveal that no physical harm was inflicted on the infants to cause their deaths.

The autopsies are being conducted by the state medical examiner.

No birth records existed for the two youngest living children, and Halpern previously said he believed Murray secretly gave birth to those children because her boyfriend didn't want any more kids than the two they already had.

The boyfriend, Ramon Rivera, has not been charged in connection with the discovery of the infants' remains. Authorities have not commented on whether he was the father of any or all of the babies.

John Guilfoil, a spokesman for Blackstone police, said Monday that Rivera was charged with cultivating and possession of marijuana, stemming from an initial police visit to the home after a neighbor reported finding a baby covered in feces.

Guilfoil said Rivera was not home at the time and was not arrested. It wasn't immediately known if Rivera had an attorney.

Public records show the home was owned by Kristina Rivera, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who is believed to be related to Ramon Rivera.

William Walsh, chairman of Blackstone's health board, said crews hoped to finish decontaminating the house by Tuesday and removing debris that, according to officials, included mounds of dirty diapers.

The town already incurred cleanup costs of more than $20,000, and the bill could reach $30,000, Walsh said.

Kristina Rivera had been served notice that the home was condemned but had not yet contacted town officials, he said, adding that a tax lien could be placed on the property to help the town recover cleanup costs.

"This was so horrific that I don't think a homeowner could put their hands around even how they would attempt to clean this property," Walsh said.

A phone number for Kristina Rivera could not be located.