Erika Murray on Day 6 of her second-degree murder trial. (Karyn Regal/WBZ NewsRadio)
WORCESTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — One of the two second-degree murder charges against a Blackstone mother who prosecutors say killed two of her children and raised others in a house of filth and neglect was thrown out during the sixth day of the trial.
Three sets of infant remains were found in Erika Murray's home in August of 2014, but one was found to be stillborn—and on Tuesday, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker decided to drop one set of murder charges because there was no evidence that another of the infants was ever alive.
"Therefore, it could not have been the victim of a homicide without there being some evidence," Kenton-Walker said. "Even drawing the inferences that are reasonable, the Commonwealth has not met its burden as to that indictment."
Murray now faces just one charge of second-degree murder, along with several charges of child abuse and neglect as well as animal cruelty.
The gruesome and bizarre case includes a house so filthy it needed to be torn down, a toddler and infant found caked in filth and allegedly hidden from the world, and a 10- and 13-year-old who didn't even know those children were their siblings.
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The judge's decision came on the day the prosecution rested, and Murray's defense began calling witnesses. But before that, Defense Attorney Keith Halpern moved to dismiss the charges against Murray due to what he called a lack of evidence.
Halpern maintains that all the babies were stillborn, and says there's no proof Murray did anything wrong or criminal that caused the deaths of the children.
"One may speculate on the point, but speculation alone does not constitute evidence, and that's essentially what you have here," Halpern said. "You have dead bodies and speculation that, well, she probably did something."
Halpern alleges investigators jumped to conclusions in charging her with murder in reaction to the horrid conditions in the house. As for the filth and the conditions of the children, Halpern claims they are the result of mental illness and an abusive relationship between Murray and her boyfriend, rather than neglect.
He also argued Tuesday against the charges of neglect of the younger children, saying they were unwarranted because the children weren't physically injured.
Prosecutor Christopher Hodgens responded for the Commonwealth, saying there was indeed evidence painting Murray as guilty of a "calculated neglect."
After a 45-minute recess where she reviewed the defense's motion to dismiss, Judge Kenton-Walker decided to throw out only one of the second-degree murder charges and keep the other, as well as the various neglect and animal cruelty charges.
The defense then called forensic anthropologist Kristen Hartnett-McCann as a witness, to testify against the methods the Commonwealth cited to determine that the babies had been alive.
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports