WORCESTER, Mass. (WPRI) — A trial involving a Blackstone mother charged in connection with the deaths of her two babies continued Thursday, with a forensic anthropologist and medical examiner taking the witness stand.
Erika Murray, 35, faces murder and other charges after the bodies of three babies were found inside her squalid Massachusetts home in 2014. Prosecutors are trying to prove she caused the deaths of two of those babies, while the defense contends there’s no evidence the babies were born alive.
Murray remained emotionless in court Thursday as prosecutors tried to prove she caused the death of two of her children. Murray’s defense attorney contends there is no evidence to prove the babies were not stillborn.
Massachusetts State Police Sergeant Pete Egan took the witness stand first Thursday, recounting his discovery of the infants’ remains inside a box in a bedroom closet in September of 2014.
“As we started removing the top portion of the box that is when we located the human remains,” Egan testified.
Forensic anthropologist Dr. James Pokines said one baby had evidence of surviving childbirth pointing to a microscopic dental feature called a neonatal line.
“This line keeps appearing on individuals who have gone through a live birth and survived afterward and no one was finding it on anyone who never made it past fetal age who had never been born,” Pokines said.
He said the line becomes visible a week or so after a live birth.
Defense attorney Keith Halpern questioned the science behind the neonatal line theory in his attempts to prove there is no evidence that the three babies survived birth.
Medical Examiner, Dr. Robert Welton, also testified Thursday about the conditions of the three babies’ bodies discovered inside Murray’s home.
Welton said that one of the infants was found “mummified” and wrapped in a pair of sweatpants.
“The infant had an attached umbilical cord and placenta that was mummified, I stated earlier there was advanced decomposition and there was old insect activity, you can call them bug carcasses,” Welton said.
According to Welton, all of the babies bodies were so severely decomposed he couldn’t tell their genders. He also couldn’t determine how they died but said he found no signs of trauma.
Welton believes at least one of the three babies was born alive, but could not determine the order in which the babies were born or precisely how long they’d been dead.
When questioned by Halpern about whether the bodies themselves indicated a live or stillbirth, Welton said there was not enough evidence for him to make that determination based solely on the children’s remains. He said additional scientific findings helped him reach the conclusion that one of the babies was likely alive at the time of birth.
Murray has four surviving children who were taken into state custody at the time of her arrest.