Mother in ‘House of Horrors' Trial Found Not Guilty of Murder

A judge found Erika Murray guilty of assault and battery and animal cruelty, but not guilty of second-degree murder.

Warning: Some of the details in the story below are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.

A Massachusetts judge found Erika Murray not guilty of second-degree murder in the Blackstone "House of Horrors" trial after three dead babies were found in her squalid home, Thursday.

Murray, 35, initially faced two counts of second-degree murder, but Judge Janet Kenton-Walker tossed one of the charges after prosecutors failed to prove one of the babies born in Murray's squalid home was ever even alive. The judge ultimately decided the defendant was not guilty of murder for their deaths.

The defendant was also found not guilty of two counts of reckless endangerment of a child, charges she faced regarding the well-being of her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

She was, however, found guilty of two counts of animal cruelty and two counts of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury. The assault charges pertained to the 3-year-old and 5-month-old girls found living in the squalor.

"This case involves a senseless, tragic story about a dysfunctional parent and her family," Kenton-Walker said. "Regardless of how disturbing the facts surrounding this case are to the community at large, and me as a parent, I cannot take into account those feelings."

People in the community were shocked by the split verdict.

"She was found not guilty?" I had no idea," said Cheryl Cassavan of Blackstone.

"She needs help," Peter Martinell of Blackstone said. "It's sad, and there are no winners here."

Kenton-Walker said Murray's sentencing would take place on July 11. 

Shocking details were revealed as witnesses took the stand during the trial and graphic photographs were shown in court, exposing the horrid and disturbing environment four of Murray's children lived in.

Murray's Blackstone home was filled with garbage, infested by maggots and insects, had feces-covered handprints on the wall and reeked of urine, according to several witnesses. 

One state police trooper said he needed to wear a hazmat suit to properly search the house and a police chief said after just 15 minutes in the house, investigators were covered in fleas and insects. Among the filth were three skeletal remains of Murray's babies.

Authorities found the bodies inside cardboard boxes in two of the home's closets. One of the babies' bodies still had the placenta attached and the body of a dead dog was found inside a bag near the first infant. Prosecutors said a second dead baby was found nearby, "diapered and fully clothed, but they were skeletal remains."

The third dead infant was found in another closet in another room. That child was also diapered and fully clothed.

The sqaulid conditions were discovered by a neighbor who responded to the house after her son asked if she could help him shush a baby.

Neighbor Betsy Brown testified that her 10-year-old son would play with Murray's 10-year-old son. When Brown's son went to Murray's house, he called his mother and said he needed help in getting a baby to stop crying. Brown testified that she didn't know of any babies in the neighborhood, but went responded to the house anyway.

There, she discovered the filthy conditions and found two girls in the home. The children, 5-months-old and 3-years-old, were covered in feces and prosecutors said they showed signs of severe neglect.

Dr. Heather Forkey of UMass Memorial Medical Center said the 3-year-old lacked the muscle tone you would expect of a preschool-aged child who would be running and playing.

"We were very concerned that this was a child who had experienced a profound amount of neglect," Forkey said. "When she would sit she would curl her legs into a fetal position that you would expect to see of someone in utero and again not typical of a 3-year-old who at this point normally has learned to walk."

Murray's lawyers raised mental illness as a defense.

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