Erika Murray in Worcester Superior Court Tuesday. (Karyn Regal/WBZ NewsRadio)
WORCESTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The trial of a woman accused of killing her three infants and leaving her other children in what has been described as a "house of horrors" in Blackstone five years ago began Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court.
Erika Murray is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and multiple counts of child neglect. Her home, so filthy it had to be searched by crews in hazmat suits, was eventually torn down by the town.
In opening statements, ADA Christopher Hodgens outlined what spurred the discovery of the home back in 2014. He described how Murray's 10-year-old son went to neighbor Betsy Brown's house to ask for help, leading Brown to find Murray's other children, a three-year-old and five-month-old, living in squalor.
She called State Police, who searched the home and also found the remains of three babies and a dead dog.
"These children never saw the light of day," Hodgens said. "Erica Murray created two different worlds for her children—a world for the wanted, and a world for the unwanted."
Brown later took the stand, describing how Murray's son, who was friends with her own son, was always at her home. She said Murray's son looked like he was not well cared for, and said she fed him every day.
She claimed a foul odor came from Murray's home whenever she passed, and that when she met Murray, the same odor came from her as well.
When Murray's son called Brown on August 28, 2014 to ask for help because he "couldn't get the baby to stop crying," Brown was surprised, because she didn't know of any babies on the street.
Brown walked into Murray's home to help the boy, and said she was first overcome by the smell and trash.
"You really couldn't see a floor," she said. "It was more like just walking on top of stuff trying to get to other stuff ... horrible rotting food, dirty diapers. It was horrible. It was the worst smell I've ever smelled."
She said she went to an upstairs bedroom, where she heard a child crying.
"She had feces completely, pretty much covering her, hair, body, everything," Brown said.
Brown cried on the stand as she described the horrors she witnessed, leading her to call 911. Murray, meanwhile, sat poker-faced in the courtroom.
Brown said that when police opened one door, the smell coming from inside made her physically ill. That's when she went outside and saw Murray, who appeared "very nonchalant, very lackadaisical."
Jurors next heard from Blackstone Police Officer Michael Pavone, who also described a terrible smell and finding the children covered in feces.
Officer Pavone said Murray arrived 30 minutes after he did, and when he asked where she'd been, she allegedly told him she "had things to do."
When informed that DCF was going to take her children, Pavone said, Murray was only concerned about the whereabouts of her cat.
Murray's defense attorney, Keith Haplert, said there was no evidence Murray did anything wrong or criminal that caused the death of the children. He alleges that investigators weren't objective in their appraisal of the situation because they were put off by the condition of the house.
"This incredibly bizarre story did not involve criminal conduct, it involved illness and behavior that was consistent with her illness, which involved an extraordinarily abnormal dependence on her boyfriend, a terror that she would be abandoned by him if he learned that she was pregnant, severe depression, emotional abuse," he said.
WBZ NewsRadio’s Karyn Regal (@KarynRegal) reports