WORCESTER, Mass. - A Massachusetts woman who lived in a squalid home where authorities found the remains of three babies was sentenced Thursday to six to eight years behind bars for child assault and battery and animal cruelty convictions.
Erika Murray will get credit for nearly five years she has already served since her arrest in 2014, when the remains were discovered inside her home's closets in Blackstone, about 50 miles southwest of Boston along the Rhode Island border. Four living children were also removed from the home.
Murray was cleared last month of second-degree murder but found guilty of harming two of her living children. A cat and a dog were also found in the house filled with rodents, dirty diapers and trash. Judge Janet Kenton-Walker said prosecutors did not prove that Murray caused the death of the one baby she was charged with killing.
Murray was initially charged in two of the babies' deaths, but the judge dropped one of the murder counts during the trial because she said prosecutors couldn't prove that baby was born alive.
The judge said her sentence had to take into account multiple factors, including Murray's mental illness and the fact that she was not convicted of any charges related to the babies' deaths.
"I cannot punish her, as some might want me to, for the fact that the remains of three babies were found in the closets," Kenton-Walker said.
Experts who testified for the defense said Murray had personality disorders, which her lawyer argued made it impossible for her to understand the severity of the conditions of the home.
"I would agree that punishment is deserved if the evidence established willfulness, if the evidence had established that she had intended to cause harm to these children and was aware of what she was doing and did it on purpose. But there is no evidence of that," defense attorney Keith Halpern said Thursday.
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