Warning: Some of the details in the story below are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.
Horrific details were revealed Tuesday in the first day of a Massachusetts woman's trial in which her lawyers are trying to convince a judge she is not responsible for the deaths of two infants found in her squalid Blackstone home.
In September of 2014, authorities discovered the skeletal remains of three babies in the house of 35-year-old Erika Murray, who was charged with the murder of two of those infants. The defendant's attorney, Keith Halpern, raised mental illness as a defense and said there was no evidence Murray committed a crime.
Murray's trial continued Wednesday as Blackstone Acting Police Chief Gregory Gilmore discussed what authorities found in the defendant's basement.
A marijuana plant and paraphernalia were found there, as was a dog that was "dirty, mangy and thin" locked in a kennel. Gilmore said the dog had difficulty opening its eyes because of the filth and matted fur near them.
Gilmore testified that Murray claimed the marijuana did not belong to her. She said her husband spend most of the time in the basement and that she had not been there in about five months, according to Gilmore. She voluntarily gave authorities a statement.
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When taken to the Blackstone Police Department, Murray stated the 5-month-old and 3-year-old child who were found in the filthy house by a neighbor were indeed hers.
"Said she was embarrassed to have them and that she couldn't afford to have them," Gilmore said. "That's why I believe she told her children she was just babysitting."
Murray is the mother of all seven children in the house: the two children found by the neighbor, a 10-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and the three dead infants discovered in the home. Gilmore said Murray told him that her husband, Ray Rivera, fathered those children.
Framed photographs decorated the walls of the home, but only displayed Murray's two oldest children.
Gilmore also described how after just 15 minutes in the home, investigators were covered in fleas and other insects.
"The investigators began to notice bugs or flying insects, fleas began to collect on our clothing. There was some further concern about our health," he said. The chief said he and another officer were eventually forced to go outside to decontaminate.
Several DCF workers also testified Wednesday about Murray's explanation for the 3-year-old and 5-month-old girls never leaving the house, as well as the disturbing condition those children were found in.
"We looked inside of her ear and I believe – I can't say it was maggots but it was something crawling inside of her ear,” said DCF social worker Walter McClain, "You couldn't tell the color of this baby because there was so much filth on this child."
The UMass Memorial Medical Center doctor who examined those girls testified they were not meeting typical milestones for their age and showed signs of neglect and childhood trauma.
"As soon as I walked into the room, she folded in half, she was sitting on the floor and she folded in half and it was very difficult to make any eye contact with her," said Dr. Peter Sell.
William Walsh, chairman of Blackstone's Board of Health and also its code enforcement officer, said some areas of the home were uninhabitable.
"I noticed a lot of feces on the bed... there was a lot of feces on the walls. The odors were sickening." The smell, he said, "was just indescribable."
He said the conditions were so bad that a company that cleans up bloody crime scenes said it was too filthy to clean up and it had to be torn down instead.
The horrific conditions were first discovered after a neighbor's 10-year-old son called to ask her if she could help him shush a baby in the home.
Betsy Brown, a neighbor whose son played with Murray's 10-year-old son, was the first prosecution witness Tuesday. She testified that prior to her son alerting her of a crying baby, she didn't know of any infants in the neighborhood.
"I could hear the crying, screaming, babies crying...you could clearly hear children in distress," she said. Brown said she discovered the feces and urine-covered conditions of the house on Aug. 28, 2014.
Authorities and Brown described the house as infested with insects, littered with trash strewn everywhere and filled with dirty diapers.
Prosecutors played Brown's 911 call to police after making the shocking discovery. In the phone call, she reported that "there are babies inside this house...they're covered in urine and feces." She could also be heard asking if she is allowed to carry the children.
Brown testified she tried to clean up the 5-month-old baby, but there were nothing clean in sight to wipe the infant. She took off her own shirt to clean the baby, she said in court.
Authorities responded to the house after receiving Brown's call and a state trooper went upstairs and opened a closet, according to prosecutors. There, they found a dead baby with the placenta still attached. Near the infant was a dead dog in a bag.
Prosecutors said a second dead baby was found nearby and he or she was "diapered and fully clothed, but they were skeletal remains." The third deceased infant was found in a closet in another room. That child was also diapered and fully clothed.
For live updates on the trial, click here for NBC10 Boston reporter Alysha Palumbo's Twitter feed.