Warning: Some of the details in the story below are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.
An attorney for the Massachusetts woman charged with murder following the discovery of three infant bodies in her "House of Horrors" raised mental illness as a defense on Tuesday in court.
Erika Murray, 35, of Blackstone, was arrested following the grisly discovery in September 2014. Her arrest came after a 10-year-old boy who lived in the home asked a neighbor for help in getting a baby to stop crying. Her trial got underway Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court.
Defense attorney Keith Halpern says there is no evidence his client committeed a crime. He claims Murray is mentally ill.
"There is no evidence that Ms. Murray did anything wrong or criminal to cause the death of any child," said Halpern.
The Blackstone house, which has since been demolished, was littered with trash and feces and was infested by insects. Among the squalor, skeletal remains of the three infants were found. The third dead infant was found in a closet in another room. That child was diapered and fully clothed, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors on Tuesday said a state trooper who responded to the home went upstairs and opened a closet. There, they found a dead baby with the placenta still attached. Near the infant was a dead dog in a bag and a second dead baby that was "diapered and fully clothed, but they were skeletal remains."
Officials also found a 3-year-old and 5-month-old in the home. They were among the four living children who were removed from the house.
Authorities said there were no birth records for the children found in the home.
The first prosecution witness Tuesday was Betsy Brown, a neighbor whose son often played with Murray's 10-year-old son. She testified that she entered the home on Aug. 28, 2014 after her son called her and said "he could not get the baby to stop crying." She said she didn't know of any babies in the neighborhood.
As soon as she opened the door to the home, she said, "I could hear the crying, screaming, babies crying... you could clearly hear children in distress." She said the smell in the home was "overcoming, I can't even describe it, it was a horrible, horrible smell, there was trash and stuff everywhere, you really couldn't see the floor."
Brown began to cry as she described the room where she found one infant. She described the room as "dirty, diapers, lots of dirty diapers, there were bottles with maggots in them, it was dark, very dark, it was horrible."
Prosecutors then played Brown's 911 call to police, where she could be heard saying, "there are babies inside this house... they're covered in urine and feces."
Prosecutor Christopher Hodgens said authorities found a 5-month-old baby on a bed and a toddler "rocking violently" on a bed.
"Those children had never seen the light of day," said the Assistant District Attorney. "They had never seen a doctor, they had never been immunized for anything. They had impaired development."
Prosecutors also said the toddler that was found in the house could not hold herself up and showed signs of autism. The baby could cry but was barely able to make any sounds, according to prosecutors. They also said both children showed evidence of flattened heads, indicating they spent a lot of time on their backs.
Murray's 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were born in hospitals and attended schools.
Murray was charged with murder in just two of the deaths. She has pleaded not guilty.
She waived her right to a jury trial during her appearance on Tuesday. Judge Janet Kenton-Walker will determine the verdict.
The father of the children, 39-year-old Ramon Rivera, faces child abuse charges. His attorney filed a motion in August of 2016 to dismiss the charges since he allegedly never had custody of the two neglected children found in the house. Prosecutors, however, opposed it and said he fathered the kids. DNA testing later confirmed his paternity.
Testimony in the case continues on Wednesday.