The lawyer for a Massachusetts woman arrested after the bodies of three infants were found in her home said Sunday that he’s optimistic that forensic testing will show the babies weren’t born alive, and therefore weren’t harmed or killed by his client.
Erika Murray, 31, was charged Friday with fetal death concealment and other counts after authorities found the bodies in her squalid, vermin-infested home in Blackstone, a town near the Rhode Island border and about 50 miles southwest of Boston. A medical examiner is determining whether the remains were newborns or fetuses, and how they died.
Two weeks ago, state officials took custody of Murray’s four children, ages 6 months to 13 years, after discovering the dirty conditions of the home — which prosecutors and neighbors said included soiled diapers piled up 2 feet high and the remains of several animals. Authorities found the bodies of the babies last week after getting a search warrant.
Murray’s lawyer, Keith Halpern, told The Associated Press that he’s hopeful the tests will show the dead infants were stillborn. He also expects DNA testing to show that Murray and her longtime boyfriend were the parents of the infants.
“I … am eager to see whether the forensic testing confirms that in fact the children that are deceased … were never born alive,” Halpern said. Halpern told The Boston Globe in an earlier interview that Murray secretly gave birth to her two youngest children because she was scared, after her boyfriend told her he didn’t want any more children after their first two. He told the newspaper Murray tried to conceal from her boyfriend the fact that the two youngest children were hers, and apparently told him she was babysitting them.
Halpern told the AP that Murray was fearful during the five pregnancies, including the ones of her two youngest children and the dead infants. He said it’s wasn’t clear to him how much of the fear was attributable to the mental illness he believes Murray has and how much was due to real-life concerns.
“Try to imagine the kind of fear and sort of loss of control over your life that would lead a woman to give birth to a child alone on the floor of her bathroom. That’s was she was going through,” Halpern said, but didn’t elaborate on which child or children he was referring to. “This terror just controlled her. She couldn’t figure out how to get out of the prison she created for herself.
“She is clearly mentally ill,” he said, “because the lengths to which she went to try to hide these children … no one in their right mind would have done this.” Halpern declined to discuss Murray’s relationship with her boyfriend and whether she was scared because she believed he would harm her. He also declined to comment when asked what Murray told him about the three dead babies.
The boyfriend hasn’t been charged in connection with the dead infants or the conditions in the home, where he also lived. The children first came to the attention of police two weeks ago when a 10-year-old boy who lived in the house went to a neighbor and asked, “How do you get a baby to stop crying?” said Tim Connolly, a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.
The neighbor went with the boy and found the crying baby covered in feces, but no adults around. Police were called and notified the state Department of Children and Families, which removed the four children — ages 13, 10, 3 and 6 months — from the home. Murray was then charged with two counts of reckless endangerment, and the house was condemned.
Based on interviews with the two older children, police got a search warrant and went back to the house. That’s when they found the remains of three babies, one in a closet on Wednesday and two others on Thursday.
Community members planned a vigil for Sunday evening to show support for Murray’s children.