MOTHER FROM HELL: Unspeakable crimes in filthy house
It was the case that shocked the world - one so disturbing it left social workers and emergency responders traumatised and a courtroom shocked.
Now, the infamous 'House of Horrors' case has finally concluded in the conviction of a mother accused of heinous crimes against her children.
Those crimes included stashing the bodies of three infants, she had secretly given birth to, in the recesses of her filthy home, child neglect and assault.
Erika Murray, 36, will spend up to eight years in prison, after a Superior Court judge handed down her sentence this month.
Murray was convicted of two counts of child assault, but escaped convictions on second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in her judge-only trial which wrapped up last week.
Murray lived in her home in the US state of Massachusetts with her boyfriend Ray and their two children.
Her two older children were cared for and attended school, but social workers would later discover that she hid two other children from Ray, telling him she was babysitting for someone called "Michelle".
These two children were severely neglected and malnourished.
'THE BABIES WON'T STOP CRYING'
Erika Murray's "senseless, tragic story" was uncovered in August, 2014, when her concerned neighbour, Betsy Brown, forced her way into her squalid home, which has since been dubbed the "House of Horrors".
Murray's 10-year-old son had asked Ms Brown for advice on calming down babies when they cry, saying: "I can't get the babies to stop crying".
Ms Brown thought Murray had just two children, a 13-year-old girl and the 10-year-old boy.
Confused, she walked over to the boy's house and inside, found the entire house in complete darkness, with sheets and blankets covering the windows.
In testimony, given during Murray's murder trial in June, Ms Brown said she found two tiny girls she never knew existed, lying on beds in separate rooms, crying and violently rocking back and forth.
Podcast, Court Junkie, reports that "both children were covered in faeces and maggots and appeared to be abandoned."
Ms Brown explained that, "everywhere you looked, there was filth."
"On the walls there were like little baby handprints and faeces," she said. "Dirty diapers, lots of dirty diapers; baby bottles with maggots in them."
Prosecutor Christopher Hodgens argued that Murray was "not a passer-by, or a stranger" in these crimes.
"The defendant stood in a very significant position, she was a parent," he said.
Ms Brown called emergency services and later asked Murray why she had left her children all alone, to which she replied: "I only left them there for a few hours."
The four surviving kids - ranging from five-months to 13-years-old - were taken by the state's child protective services.
INSIDE THE HOUSE OF HORRORS
The next month, investigators in Hazmat suits combed the House of Horrors, located in the town of Blackstone.
There they discovered a significant vermin infestation, a dead cat and dog, soiled nappies that were piled almost one-metre tall as well as maggots and faeces smeared all over the walls.
Mounds of garbage had been stacked so high, they risked falling on top of the children at any moment and the odour in the house would later be described by police as the worst they had ever encountered.
Social worker Walter McClain told the court he was distressed by the extent of child neglect and abuse present in the house.
"Dry urine, faeces, food, Oreo cookies that was laid on the bed crushed up for the children to try to eat," Mr McClain said.
BABIES IN THE WARDROBE
During the large scale search, police found the remains of three babies that had been stashed in two wardrobes.
According to the Boston Globe, "One (baby) still had a placenta and umbilical cord attached."
The other two bodies had been dressed in nappies and baby clothes before being dumped in the wardrobes.
In an interview with police, Murray said she had hid the pregnancies from Ray, and gave birth to the babies in secret in their bathtub, while her family slept.
When one of the babies came out blue, Murray told investigators she had put it into the wardrobe and forgotten about it.
"I got into it. I didn't know how to get out," she said.
She was arrested in September, 2014, and has spent almost five years in prison awaiting her trial.
The House of Horrors was condemned and demolished soon after.
During her trial, Murray remained stoic and emotionless, except for one occasion where the court was shown photos of the remains of the babies.
Her defence team argued that all three of the babies could have been still born, and not killed by Murray's neglect.
Prosecutor Hodgens said the defendant's five younger children were "ignored and neglected", which ultimately lead to the death of three of them.
THE SURVIVING CHILDREN
Murray's surviving four children were examined immediately after they were taken from the House of Horrors.
Paediatricians and doctors testified that the older two children had maggots inside their ears, and the younger two children were severely underdeveloped.
The five-month-old baby's head was flat from lying down too much and the three-year-old was sensitive to light, the court heard.
Doctor Heather Forkey told the court one of the girl's muscles "felt like dough" - a clear sign they had not been using their muscles to walk or crawl.
"A lot of wax built up in her ears so that we couldn't see her eardrums," Dr Forkey said.
"She had a hard time keeping her body upright, she had to be supported."
According to Mass Live, forensic psychologist Lisa Rocchio said Murray was emotionally abused by her boyfriend Ray.
"Erika really did believe that she parented these children to the best of ability and loved them and cared for them, and believed she was a good mother to them," Ms Rocchio told the court.
In her sentencing remarks, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker said there was "nothing about this case that is normal."
"These were her kids … they were children, they were the most vulnerable and had no way to defend or protect themselves," she said.
She acquitted Murray of the two counts of second-degree murder, finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove either one of them had been born alive.
"I cannot punish her, as some might want me to, for the fact that the remains of three babies were found in the closets," Judge Kenton-Walker said.
But Judge Kenton-Walker did sentenced Murray to up to eight years in prison.
The 36-year-old has already spent almost five years in jail, so she will have to spend at least 2-3 years more before she is eligible for parole.
She was also ordered to seek mental health treatment and stay away from children under the age of 10.
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