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At least two of the three babies whose skeletal remains were found in a filthy, vermin-infested Massachusetts home may have been alive "for some period of time" before they were found, a prosecutor said in court Tuesday.
Both bodies were found wearing diapers and one-piece infant outfits in closets in the Blackstone home, Assistant District Attorney John Bradley said during a bail hearing for Erika Murray in Uxbridge District Court.
Murray, 31, of Blackstone, Massachusetts, had been held without bail since her arraignment last month on charges of fetal death concealment, witness intimidation and permitting substantial injury to a child.
On Tuesday, Judge David Locke ordered Murray held on $1 million cash bail. Prosecutors had asked for $5 million cash bail.
The state Department of Children and Families removed four children ranging in age from 5 months to 13 years from Murray's home in August after her 10-year-old son asked a neighbor for help in quieting a crying baby.
The neighbor found the youngest child, a 5-month-old girl, and a 3-year-old girl, both covered in their own feces, in separate bedrooms.
After interviewing the older children, police got a search warrant and went back to the house, where they found the skeletal remains of one baby with a full head of hair in a backpack in the closet of an upstairs bedroom.
After discovering those remains, police obtained another search warrant. During the second search, they found the remains of two other babies in another bedroom, also inside a closet.
Bradley said prosecutors still don't know how the babies died or their ages and are awaiting findings from the state medical examiner's office. But he said the fact that two of the babies were clothed seems to indicate "at least two of the babies were alive for some period of time" before they died.
Bradley said the charges against Murray could be upgraded, depending on the medical examiner's findings.
Murray's attorney, Keith Halpern, said the fact that the babies were clothed is not by itself proof that the infants were alive for a significant amount of time. He suggested the babies may have been stillborn or could have had some kind of medical emergencies.
Halpern said he believes investigators are still in the process of "putting together the pieces of what happened in that house."
"There are parts of this story that make absolutely no sense," Halpern said.
Bradley said a pediatrician who later examined the 5-month-old and 3-year-old found they had been "profoundly neglected" and "severely malnourished." The 3-year-old girl could not walk and could not feed herself.
Murray initially told police she had the children at a local hospital, but later said she had given birth to them in the bathroom of her home.
Bradley said Murray told police that Ramon Rivera III, her live-in boyfriend, was the father of all four of her children. He did not address whether she said Rivera had also fathered the three infants whose remains were found in the closets.
Bradley said Murray's 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son told police that Murray instructed them to lie to their father, Rivera, and say Murray was babysitting for the two younger children. He said Murray eventually admitted to police that all four children were hers and Rivera's.
Rivera also appeared briefly in Uxbridge District Court Tuesday. He faces drug charges for allegedly growing marijuana in the basement of the house. A judge told Rivera he needs to hire an attorney. Rivera quickly left the courthouse while reporters were questioning Murray's lawyer.
Rivera has not been charged in connection with the remains found inside the house.
Murray's lawyer, Halpern, said it "makes no sense" that Rivera could have lived in the house and not realized there were two younger children there. But he also said it doesn't make sense that Rivera knew about the children and did nothing about the alleged neglect.
Halpern has said he believes Murray is suffering from a mental illness. He would not elaborate on that when asked about it Tuesday.
Halpern said previously that he believes Murray secretly gave birth to the two younger children because her boyfriend didn't want any more kids.
Murray was brought to the courthouse from jail, but waived her right to appear in court and was not present for the bail hearing. Both Murray and Rivera are due back in court Nov. 12.
The Blackstone Board of Health condemned the house where Murray, Rivera and the children lived and are planning to demolish it later this month. Authorities said it contained piles of dirty diapers, trash and the remains of dead animals.
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