Judge finds Erika Murray not guilty of murder in death of child found in home

BOSTON — Erika Murray has been found not guilty of murder in the death of a child found dead in her Blackstone home in 2014.

Judge Janet Kenton-Walker presented her decision in the case Thursday morning. She found Murray guilty of two counts of cruelty to animals, not guilty of reckless endangerment of a child, guilty of two accounts of assault and battery of a child and not guilty of murder.

Judge Kenton-Walker wrote Ms. Murray's pre-existing mental impairment kept her from understanding how bad the conditions had become.

"Cognitive deficits, personality disorder and victimization ... produced extremely primitive coping mechanisms," Judge Kenton-Walker said. "She was not conscious or aware of how bad everything had become."

In her decision, she outlined a hellish relationship with Ray Rivera that severely impacted Murray's ability to live a functional life. Judge Kenton-Walker said Murray's mental state severely compromised her thinking and ability to process information.

Police found the remains of three children inside her home in 2014, and her other children were found living in filthy conditions.

The defense argued Murray suffers from a mental health condition that made her unable to understand just how bad the home's conditions were.

But prosecutors claim she was calculated and deceptive with her neglect.

Boston 25 Legal Analyst Peter Elikann says most criminal defense lawyers want a jury to decide a case, but not in a case like this.

"Having a judge make the decision rather than the jury is probably the smart thing to do," Elikann said. "This is going to be decided on very technical legal issues. You don't want any emotion about the horror and the nightmare. You just want to focus on the real narrow legal issues."

Following the verdict announcement, Blackstone Police Chief Gregory Gilmore released a statement regarding the outcome of the trial:

"On behalf of the dedicated men and women of the Blackstone Police Department who worked on this incredibly complex, disturbing and difficult case over the past five years, I would like to express my appreciation to the Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s Office. This was a challenging case from the very beginning, but it has been most difficult for the children involved in this horrific situation. We also hope that with the end of this case, our community, which was shocked to our very core, can find closure. As acting chief of police, I would like to also personally acknowledge the outstanding work of our Blackstone Police officers and detectives as well as the State Police Detectives Unit assigned to the Worcester County District Attorney's Office and all the prosecutors who worked on the case."

Attorneys made their closing arguments in the case last week.