BLACKSTONE (CBS/AP) — An extensive search was underway Friday at a squalid home where the bodies of three infants were found among vermin and piles of soiled diapers, and investigators had not ruled out the possibility that more bodies may be inside.
A woman who lives in the house on St. Paul Street appeared in court briefly this morning and was ordered held without bail.
Erika Murray, 31, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in Uxbridge District Court on several charges including fetal death concealment out of wedlock, witness intimidation, misleading a police officer, animal cruelty and two counts of permitting substantial injury to a child.
She is not charged in the child deaths at this point in the investigation.
"You want answers in circumstances like these and you're hoping there's something rational and mental illness doesn't always provide those kinds of answers. Living in that house, who could live in that house who is not seriously mentally ill?" her attorney Keith Halpern told reporters.
A psychiatric evaluation was not ordered for Murray at Friday's hearing.
All documents in the case were impounded by the judge to protect the identities of the children.
A law enforcement source told WBZ-TV's Ken MacLeod investigators suspect, but can't prove at this point, that Murray is the mother of the three dead children and four others who were removed from the house last month.
Detectives investigating a case of reckless endangerment of children found the bodies in Murray's house, about 50 miles southwest of Boston.
Police spokesman John Guilfoil said the first gruesome discovery came Wednesday afternoon when an officer found "the body of what appeared to be a newborn baby, tucked into the back of a closet in one of the rooms of the house."
A larger search Thursday turned up two additional bodies, "believed to have been newborn babies," Guilfoil said.
"The skeletal remains of several animals, including cats and a dog, were also found inside."
The home is less than a quarter-mile from the Blackstone Police station. Sources told WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill they fear more bodies are inside.
Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said the house was in "deplorable condition." He said authorities don't know when or how the babies died, or their ages and genders.
The search of the home is expected to take several days.
Four other children, ages 13, 10, 3 years old and 6 months old, were removed from the house last month after a neighbor notified police about their living conditions. The children were put in state custody.
According to police spokesman John Guilfoil, state records showed that the two oldest children are Murray's, but no birth records existed for the two youngest children.
A source told MacLeod that although the two babies have no birth records, it's believed all four of the children belong to Murray.
"Our priorities are to ensure that the four children are safe and to make sure justice is served going forward," Blackstone Chief Ross Atstupenas said in a statement Friday.
Investigators working in the small house were wearing hazardous material suits Thursday, and were decontaminated when they left.
"The house is filled with vermin," Early said.
"We have flies. We have bugs. We have used diapers, in some areas, as much as a foot-and-a-half to 2-feet high. The house is in a deplorable condition."
Early said one of the children in the house approached a neighbor about a child who wouldn't stop crying August 28. Early said the 6-month-old was found covered with feces lying on a bed.
Marilynn Soucy, 68, who lives a few doors down from the house, said in a telephone interview that she was still in shock at the news in the neighborhood where she has lived for 35 years.
"I am so disgusted. It hasn't really registered in my head yet," she said. "My husband and I raised seven children. We have 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I cannot imagine hurting a child."
She said she and her husband, Bob, had rarely seen the couple who lived in the house for at least three years, or their children. She said they occasionally saw the 10-year-old, a boy, playing outside or the woman sit on her porch.
Soucy said she never heard any major complaints about the couple, other than her grandkids noted once that the house smelled bad.
The house, Soucy said, had been renovated extensively before they moved in.
"If we thought kids were being abused or living in squalor we would have said something," she said.
Soucy said the only time there was commotion at the house was when officials removed the children.
Early said it's too soon to know if charges will be filed in the infants' deaths, or against whom, because investigators don't even know who was living at the home when they died.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mark Katic reports
Lawyer: Blackstone Mother Mentally Ill
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