A Massachusetts woman who stored the rotting corpses of three newborns in her filthy home was acquitted of murder, as her defense argued that she was fearful of an abusive boyfriend, MassLive.com reports.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker found 35-year-old Erika Murray not guilty of second-degree murder and child endangerment, but convicted her on two counts of assault and battery to a child.
She also was found guilty of two animal cruelty charges for neglecting pets.
Another murder charge was dismissed earlier this month because it could not be determined whether the child had been born alive or dead, and prosecutors had not charged her in connection with the death of the third baby.
According to the report, police arrested Murray in 2014 and removed four children from her home, none of whom her family or friends knew about. Murray reportedly gave birth to the youngest of the children at home and had never taken them outside or to a doctor.
Authorities were called to the residence after her friend’s son told his mother that two babies would not stop crying in the home.
The boy’s mother subsequently visited the squalid home and notified police, who found the dead babies in closets, according to MassLive.com
Murray reportedly claimed two of the children were stillborn and the third lived for a brief time before dying.
In her ruling, Kenton-Walker held that while prosecutors had proved one of the deceased infants had survived childbirth, there was insufficient evidence to show she could have saved the child upon discovering the baby wasn’t breathing and had turned blue.
Prosecutors portrayed Murray as neglectful of her younger children whom she allegedly didn’t want.
Defense attorney Keith Haplern reportedly said Murray’s behavior was not malicious, but instead was born out of fear that her boyfriend, 42-year-old Raymond Rivera, would learn the truth about the kids, whom she said they could not afford. Haplern said Rivera was emotionally abusive toward Murray and that she believed she was a good mother.
When police entered the home in August 2014, it was infested, the floors were littered with dirty diapers and there was an overpowering stench.
“It wasn’t a decision she made to ignore the risks and jeopardize the health of her children,” Halpern said in court, according to the report. “She didn’t see anything else other than getting through the day and keeping the secrets.”
Kenton-Walker found that Murray’s personality disorders, cognitive impairments and abuse from her boyfriend meant she could not appreciate the severity of the problems or rationally resolve them.
Still, she convicted Murray on the assault and battery charges because of evidence demonstrating that her children had been subject to “profound neglect” that inflicted harm.
Rivera has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury and reckless endangerment of a child. He is awaiting trial.
In a statement, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said the case was “very hard” and had a “very difficult set of facts as it always is when dealing with children who are victims.”
Murray is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
[Feature image: AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Paul Kapteyn, Pool]