Massachusetts: A woman who lived at a squalid, vermin-infested home where the bodies of three infants were found this week was arraigned on Friday on charges including fetal death concealment and ordered held without bail as the search for more possible bodies continued.
Detectives investigating a case of reckless endangerment of children found the bodies at a house littered with soiled diapers in Blackstone, southwest of Boston. Four other children had been removed from the home two weeks earlier.
Erika Murray, 31, was arrested Thursday night on charges including fetal death concealment, witness intimidation and permitting substantial injury to a child. Not guilty pleas were entered Friday on her behalf.
Her attorney, Keith Halpern, suggested that Murray struggled with mental illness.
“You want answers in circumstances like this … mental illness doesn’t always provide those kinds of answers,” Halpern said after Murray’s arraignment. He did not elaborate on her condition.
Murray was the mother of the two oldest children removed from the home last month, but no birth records existed for the two youngest, police said.
The children first came to the attention of police two weeks ago after a 10-year-old boy who lived in the house went to a neighbor’s home 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.
Detectives found the body of an infant in a closet on Wednesday and the remains of what appeared to be two other newborns on Thursday, police said. Early said Friday that authorities had not ruled out the possibility that more bodies may be inside. The search of the home, near the town’s police station, is expected to take several days.
The four other children, ages 13, 10, 3 and 6 months old, were removed from the house on Aug. 28, after the neighbor notified police about their living conditions, authorities said. They were placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families.
The department said in a statement that it did not previously have an open case involving the family and that it learned about the situation through a report of possible abuse or neglect.
A man was also living in the house, but he has not been charged, Connolly said.
The state Department of Children and Families said Friday that it had received a report of abuse or neglect in 2007, but that it was unsupported and no case was ever opened with the family. The agency did not release details on the nature of the report.
Investigators working Friday in the small house, which has been condemned by health officials, were wearing hazardous material suits. Police said skeletal remains of several animals, including cats and a dog, were also found inside.
Authorities said they did not know how old the babies were. The state medical examiner was examining the remains.