Metro

Blackstone father in ‘complete shock,’ friend says

Said to be unaware of 2 children

BLACKSTONE — The live-in boyfriend of a Blackstone woman who resided in a squalid home where authorities found the remains of three infants last week told a friend that he was in “complete shock” after learning that he was probably the father of two small children taken from the house in August, according to the friend.

The man said he spoke with Ramon Rivera III after Rivera met with representatives from the state Department of Children and Families. During the meeting, an official told Rivera that he was the father of all four children taken from the vermin-infested home at 23 St. Paul St. that he shared with his girlfriend, 31-year-old Erika Murray, the friend said.

Murray is being held on charges that include concealing fetal death and permitting substantial injury to a child. Four children — ages 5 months and 3, 10, and 13 years — were taken from the residence on Aug. 28, and the remains of three infants were found there on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Rivera’s friend spoke to the Globe on condition that he not be named, because he does not want to be associated with the case. He said he has known Rivera since 2000 when they worked together at a McDonald’s restaurant in Northbridge.

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From early 2011 until last year, the man said, he participated in a regular card game held in the basement of the home that Rivera and Murray shared.

The friend said Rivera “was in absolute, complete shock” after learning he probably fathered the 5-month-old and the 3-year-old, in addition to the two older children.

Rivera has not been charged in connection with unsanitary conditions found in the home, but is accused of growing marijuana in the basement.

The four children are now under DCF supervision.

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The meeting where Rivera was informed about the two younger children took place before police found the remains of infants in the house, the friend said. He added that Rivera was unaware of the deplorable conditions on the second floor where the two younger children were found.

“Just like everyone else, he also thinks he should have known,” the friend said. “She had everybody fooled.”

Rivera, the friend said, often slept on a couch in the basement. The house also has a separate entrance to the basement, which Rivera’s friends used for the card games, the man said.

“He wants the truth to be his support,” he said.

A view through kitchen window of the vermin-infested home from which four children, ages 5 months to 13 years, were removed and the remains of three infants were found. Crews spent four days cleaning the house before boarding it up.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
A view through kitchen window of the vermin-infested home from which four children, ages 5 months to 13 years, were removed and the remains of three infants were found. Crews spent four days cleaning the house before boarding it up.

Sabrina Wilson, 29, worked with Murray and Rivera at McDonald’s and said Murray seemed happy with her home life after she moved on to a position at Shaw’s.

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Wilson said she most recently saw Murray in 2009 at the home, and that Murray appeared to have lost weight. Her house was messy, though the conditions were not as bad as those authorities have described, Wilson said.

“She seemed a little lost,” she said, “like something was missing.”

Rivera, Wilson said, retreated downstairs when he got home.

“He’d get home, give her a kiss, talk to the kids, see how their day at school was, and go to the basement,” she said.

Separately on Tuesday, Blackstone police released details of incidents with the house dating back to 2000.

Calls from October 2000 through March 2007 were related to prior residents of the home or to Rivera, police said.

In May 2005, Kristina Rivera, Ramon’s sister and the owner of the house, was listed as the “calling party” during an incident in which a child playing with a telephone had accidentally called 911. It was not clear if that child was one of Murray’s children.

Another incident occurred in December 2005 when police were contacted because a child had been absent from school. Police said they got in touch with the home’s owner, who told them that “the subject is in Florida on vacation. He will have her mother call the school.”

The adults and children in question were not identified.

Murray first spoke to Blackstone police in April 2007 when she discussed “a medical transport of another party” with officers, police said in a statement Tuesday. During that incident, the other party had reportedly said that she was going to harm herself, according to the police log.

“While we will all wonder what could have been done to prevent this terrible tragedy, our officers continue to do their jobs well, and no one could have predicted the scene that investigators would find last week,” Police Chief Ross Atstupenas said in a statement.

Police visited the home three times in 2012 for issues related to dogs, according to the statement.

The final visit to the house before the Aug. 28 well-being check, which resulted in the four children being placed in DCF custody, came on May 19 when Murray called police about a dead cat on the sidewalk in front of her home.

Also Tuesday, crews finished the arduous process of cleaning the home, which took 90 hours over four days and is expected to cost about $25,000, town officials said.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@
globe.com
.