BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts woman facing charges after the skeletal remains of three babies were found in her squalid home had the babies starting about eight years ago, including one infant she said was born alive and lived for several days, her lawyer said Friday.
Erika Murray told police she put the baby down for a nap in a bassinet and when she returned about an hour or two later, the baby was dead, her attorney Keith Halpern said. The Boston Herald was the first to report the information Murray told authorities.
Murray, 31, is being held on $1 million bail on charges that include fetal death concealment.
Prosecutors have said that two of the dead babies found in Murray's vermin-infested Blackstone home may have been alive for "some period of time." They said the remains of all three infants were found inside two bedroom closets.
Halpern said Murray had the three babies in the years between the births of her 10-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. Prosecutors say the 3-year-old and a 5-month-old girl were profoundly neglected.
The state Department of Children and Families removed four children ranging in age from 5 months to 13 years from Murray's home in August after the 10-year-old son asked a neighbor for help in quieting a crying baby. The neighbor found the 5-month-old and 3-year-old both covered in their own feces, in separate bedrooms.
Friends and neighbors have said Murray hid the existence of the two youngest children from her family.
After police interviewed Murray's two oldest children, they got a search warrant and went back to the house, where they found the skeletal remains of one baby in a backpack in the closet of an upstairs bedroom. Police then obtained another search warrant, and this time found the remains of two other babies inside another bedroom closet.
During a bail hearing for Murray earlier this week, prosecutors said the state medical examiner's office is trying to determine how old the babies were and how they died. Two of the bodies were clothed in diapers and one-piece infant outfits.
Halpern said Murray appears to have mental health issues and he has retained experts to evaluate her and prepare a defense. He said the fact that two of the dead babies were wearing clothing does not prove that they were born alive or lived for any period of time.
"There are people who are skeptical of mental illness being raised as a defense in any criminal case, but if you don't believe that a woman who lives in the squalor that she lived in, a woman who decides to keep two children hidden from the world and who keeps not only the remains of three children in a bedroom closet, but the remains of family pets — if you don't listen to those facts and conclude that she is severely mentally ill, then there's no such thing as mental illness," Halpern said.
Tim Connolly, a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr., declined to comment. "If we're going to say anything about this case, we'll say it in open court," Connolly said.