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Onlookers cheered Tuesday as a four-man demolition crew started tearing down what some had dubbed a "House of Horrors" - the squalid Massachusetts home where the skeletal remains of three infants were found.
A backhoe started clawing at the outer walls after a 9 a.m. deadline passed without the home's owner contacting the town or seeking a court order to halt the demolition. Blackstone Town Administrator Daniel Keyes said all utilities were shut off and someone went through the building to make sure no one was inside before work began.
The town's fire department hosed down the debris and dust to contain the offensive odors still emanating from the home, which had been filled with dirty diapers, animal carcasses and infested with insects and rodents.
Blackstone's Board of Health ordered the demolition, which is expected to take two days.
Erika Murray, the woman who lived in the house with four children and her longtime boyfriend, is being held on $1 million bail on charges including fetal death concealment. She has pleaded not guilty.
Murray's lawyer Keith Halpern said last week that she appears to have mental health issues. He said Murray told him the dead infants were born starting about eight years ago and at least one was born alive and lived a few days before she found the child dead in a bassinet. The state medical examiner has not determined how old the babies were or how they died.
Murray's other four children, ranging in age from 6 months to 13 years, were removed from the house in August. Authorities found the infants' remains in a more thorough search a few weeks later.
"It's an end to a long drama here in town," Linda Konowitz said as the backhoe demolished the porch. "It's going to put a lot of people at rest."
She said residents "felt like every time they passed it on the way to work, on the way to school, that it was a reminder of all the tragedy that had happened here."
Authorities kept residents at a distance, but some cheered as they caught a glimpse of the demolition or watched it unfold on TV.
Workers in hazmat suits spent days cleaning out the house. The town spent $20,000 on the cleanup and about $8,500 to take it down.
The house is owned by Kristina Rivera of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the sister of Murray's boyfriend, Raymond Rivera. She has had no comment and city officials say she has not responded to them.
Raymond Rivera, who lived in the basement, has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he grew marijuana in the home