Crews Begin Tearing Down Blackstone House

Demolition of Blackstone house on October 21, 2014.
Demolition of Blackstone house on October 21, 2014. –Allan Jung/Pool

Erika Murray, 31, of Blackstone, was arrested Sept. 10 after police discovered the bodies of three infants and various animals inside of a dilapidated home. She faces several charges, levied at different points since late August, and prosecutors have not ruled out adding more charges as they continue to investigate.

In late August, a concerned neighbor entered Murray’s home to find four children living in fetid conditions. The state removed the children from the home, which was then condemned.

On Sept. 10, police and investigators — some in Hazmat suits — entered the home and removed the remains of three infants. As investigators continue to dig through the mounds of trash in the home, they have encountered more horrors.

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In court, meanwhile, Murray pleaded not guilty and has begun to offer some defense through her attorney, contending she lived in fear of her live-in partner, Ramon Rivera of Framingham. Her attorney contends Murray is mentally ill.

Here are the most recent developments on the case, in reverse chronological order:

Oct. 21: Crews Begin Tearing Down House

A small demolition crew began demolishing the home where the three infant bodies were found. The home’s owner, Kristina Rivera of Woonsocket, R.I., was given until 9 a.m. on Tuesday to contact the town or seek a court order to stop the demolition, but failed to do so.

Officials believe there was no way to salvage the house, which still reeks of rodents, insects, dirty diapers, and other garbage. WBZ reports that Blackstone’s fire department was on the scene to hose the property down to contain the dust and odor as much as possible. It will take two days to completely demolish the property, at a cost, according to Fox 25, of $40,000.

Oct. 14: Prosecutors Say Babies Had Been Living; $1 Million Bail for Mother

Murray was ordered held on $1 million cash bail after the prosecution contended in Uxbridge District Court that at least two of the three infants who were found dead in the home had been living, reported The Associated Press. Two of the children who were in bags hanging in the home’s closets were clad in diapers and onesies when they were found, a prosecutor said.

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Murray’s boyfriend, Ramon Rivera, who has not been charged in connection with the discovery of the infants’ bodies, was due for a separate hearing Tuesday on marijuana charges in the same courthouse.

Oct. 8: Date set for home to be torn down

Blackstone’s Board of Health awarded an $8,500 contract for the home’s demolition and set a start date of Oct. 21, according to The Associated Press.

Owner Kristina Rivera of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, has the option of going to court to halt the demolition, but has not cooperated with town officials up to this point, according to the report.

Oct. 2: Owner misses deadline to act on demolition order

Kristina Rivera, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the owner of the Blackstone home, had until Oct. 1 to present the town with a plan to demolish the home but failed to do so, according to The Associated Press.

The town will now move forward to demolish the house and will place a lien on the property to cover the costs.

Sept. 23: Board of Health unanimously votes to raze home in seven days

Calling the home a significant threat to public safety and a psychological scar on the neighborhood, the board voted to raze the home at 23 Saint Paul St. within seven days and fill in its foundation.

“I personally look at it, and I just want to break down,’’ one neighbor told The Boston Globe before tonight’s meeting. “Finding three dead babies in that house is the most horrible thing I ever, ever thought.’’

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One inspector said the smell from the squalid building — littered with vermin and feces — may never go away.

Sept. 16: Murray held in prison, police statement on previous visits

Murray was remanded to a prison unit designated for inmates who could harm themselves, reported the Associated Press. The area of the Framingham prison where Murray is being held specifically handles potentially suicidal prisoners. Her lawyer has previously said that Murray has a mental illness.

Hundreds of local residents reportedly attended a vigil to mourn the deceased infants found in the home in addition and pray for the four other children who were removed from the home by state authorities.

Additionally, the Blackstone Police Department issued a statement on the previous day’s story about being called to the home 29 times since 2000. From 2000 to 2007, the house was occupied by another party. There have been eight calls since then, and were concerning the welfare of a dog on the property. The police said it had no contact with Murray until 2011.

“What we saw goes beyond heartbreaking,’’ Blackstone Police Chief Ross Atstupenas said. “It is nothing that any of the hundreds of noise complaints or well being checks our department performs every year could have possibly prepared us for, but I want to state that the Blackstone Police Department takes every call for service seriously and does an excellent job working for the good of the people of Blackstone every day.’’

Sept. 15: Police visited home 29 times before discovery

WBZ reports that police went to the Blackstone home 29 times since 2000, responding to calls about noise , school absences, and animal welfare. A health inspector visited the home twice to follow up on reports of trash in the yard. Only one visit appears to have warranted any follow-up: in 2007, the Department of Children and Families was brought in to check on the children’s welfare, but found no evidence of abuse or neglect.

Sept. 14: More gruesome discoveries

Murray’s attorney, Keith Halpern said he is hopeful tests will show the three dead infants found in his client’s home were stillborn and not killed by Murray.

‘‘I … am eager to see whether the forensic testing confirms that in fact the children that are deceased … were never born alive,’’ Halpern said.

Also on Sunday, officials said they found the remains of more dead animals as the search of the home continued this week.

The skeleton of a dog and cat were found on the second floor of the house.

It was not immediately clear if the news would mean more charges for Erika Murray.

Sept. 13: Lawyer speaks

Erika Murray’s court-appointed attorney, Wellesley lawyer Keith Halpern told the Boston Globe that “she lived in terror’’ of her partner learning about the dead children she had allegedly hidden from him.

“She was frozen in this nightmare,’’ he told the paper. “She couldn’t get out of it.’’

Ramon Rivera III, originally of Framingham, reportedly fathered two children with Murray before telling her they could not afford any further additions to their family.

The report continues:

Halpern said he knows prosecutors have interviewed Rivera, who is believed to be the father of the four children. Halpern said it is hard for him to imagine that Rivera, who allegedly lived full time in the house, did not know about the two other children.

Murray apparently explained to Rivera that the two younger children were not hers — but belonged to another woman and she was babysitting them, a story that she allegedly repeated to the two older children, according to a neighbor whose call prompted police to respond on Aug. 28 to investigate the home.

Sept. 10: Murray arrested

Murray was arrested at a family member’s home in Northbridge, now additionally charged with fetal death concealment out of wedlock, witness intimidation, animal cruelty and two counts of permitting substantial injury to a child.

She was arraigned the following Friday, Sept. 12 and is being held in a Framingham women’s prison. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Rivera was reportedly not present during the police search. While he has not been charged with any crimes related to the alleged child neglect, he was charged with “possession and cultivating’’ marijuana in the home’s basement where he lived.

Sept. 10: Police obtain search warrants

Police continued to investigate the neglect charges against Erika Murray and obtained a search warrant for her home.

Blackstone Police spokesperson John Guilfoil said an officer discovered the remains of a newborn baby “tucked into the back of a closet’’ while searching the home, prompting an intensive search from the Worcester District Attorney’s Office and the Regional Hazardous Materials Team.

Investigators in hazardous material suits combed through the home, the condition of which Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early described as “deplorable.’’

Eventually, the remains of two other infants were recovered, along with skeletons of “several animals,’’ Guilfoil said.

“What we know is that we have three infants that have been found deceased at this residence,’’ Early told reporters outside the residence. “The house is filled with vermin. We have flies, we have bugs. We have used diapers, in some areas as much as a foot-and-a-half to two feet high.’’

Aug. 28: Children removed from home

Though the station is only a minute’s walk from the 23 Saint Paul St. home, police said their first encounter with Erika Murray’s family followed a call from a concerned neighbor

According to the Associated Press:

Neighbors said the shades were always drawn; some had noticed a foul smell. A prosecutor said that soiled diapers were piled up 2 feet high and that the remains of several animals had also been found.

The children first came to the attention of police two weeks ago when a 10-year-old boy who lived in the house went to a neighbor and asked, ‘‘How do you get a baby to stop crying?’’ said Tim Connolly, a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.

The neighbor went with the boy and found the crying baby covered in feces, but no adults around.

An hour after police filed an emergency neglect report with the agency, four children — ranging in age from 13 to six months old — were taken into DCF custody.

Murray received a summons to appear in Uxbridge District Court on neglect charges and her home was later condemned.

DCF officials told the Associated Press that the agency once investigated the family in 2007 after receiving a tip about conditions in the dilapidated home. Staff reportedly recommended some changes be made to the building but ultimately concluded the children weren’t in danger and left them in their parents’ custody.

The agency did not release the file related to that incident.

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