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Secret children, living and dead, reportedly hidden by squalor for years

Posted at 6:52 AM, Sep 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-15 07:01:27-04

BLACKSTONE, Mass. -- A Massachusetts town along the banks of a river was jarred by a gruesome sight this week: three dead infants in a home so squalid, police officers had to search it in hazmat suits.

Little is known about the infants found in Blackstone, including their ages, gender, as well as the causes and manners of their deaths, according to Tim Connolly of the Worcester County District Attorney's Office.

What's also unclear is the relationship between them and a woman arrested in connection with their deaths. Law enforcement officials believe Erika Murray may be their mother, according to WBZ in Boston.

Murray, 31, was arraigned Friday on a slew of charges, including concealing an out of wedlock fetal death, two counts of permitting substantial injury to a child, intimidation of a witness, cruelty to an animal and violating an abuse prevention order, according to Connolly.

She has not been charged in the deaths.

Her attorney, Keith Halpern, suggested to WBZ that his client may be mentally ill.

"Who could live in that house who is not seriously mentally ill?" Halpern asked.

The state's Department of Children and Families removed four children from the home on August 28 after allegations of negligence, spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen said.

Two weeks after that, on September 11, detectives went to investigate, but they had " to wear hazmat suits because of the deplorable conditions inside the home, which included massive insect infestation, mounds of used diapers and feces," according to Connolly.

It was there, amid the filth and squalor, that police discovered the infants' remains.

"It was a long and very difficult day," said Joseph Early, the Worcester County District Attorney. "And a sad day."

The state's removal of the four living children at the home last month was the result of the filing of what's called a 51A report in Massachusetts, according to Alec Loftus, a spokesman for the state's office of Health and Human Services.

A 51A can be filed by any citizen with reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. It is not known who filed the report in this case, but Loftus told CNN that "mandatory reporters like police and doctors are required to file when they have cause."

This was not the first time a 51A had been filed when it came to that home, according to Isaksen. She said such a report was previously received in 2007, but that "it was unsupported and therefore no case was opened."

For now, Isaksen said DCF has the four children in its care. It is focused on "ensuring (their) safety and well-being and providing them with the proper medical care, support, and services they need," she said. Connolly said that the family caring for them has no public statement to make at this time.

Murray's case was adjourned to October 14. Investigators, meanwhile, remain at the scene digging through the squalor.

"Our investigation will continue for quite some time," Early said.