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Erika Murray in court Thursday.
Erika Murray in court Thursday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

WORCESTER — Erika Murray was acquitted of second-degree murder Thursday, five years after police found two badly neglected children and the remains of three newborns in her squalid Blackstone home.

Murray was also acquitted of child endangerment charges but convicted on two counts of assault and battery on a child. Her sentencing was set for July 11.

Murray, 35, had waived her right to a jury trial, and the case was decided by Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker, who called the case a “senseless, tragic story about a dysfunctional parent and her family.”

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Earlier this month, Kenton-Walker had dropped one of two murder charges against Murray, ruling there was insufficient evidence that a baby she was accused of killing was born alive.

When Murray discovered her other baby was not breathing, she did not perform CPR or call 911, prosecutors alleged. But Kenton-Walker said it was not possible to say whether the baby would have survived even if these actions had been performed.

Kenton-Walker said she found Murray not guilty of reckless endangerment because it could not be proven she was aware how dangerous the children’s living conditions had become. Her mental condition prevented her from processing information, she said.

“In her mind, Ms. Murray believed she was a good mother,” the judge said.

Medical examiners were not able to determine how or when the babies died. Murray was not charged in connection with the third baby’s death.

Murray’s lawyer, Keith Halpern , said his client was “obviously mentally ill” given the terrible condition of the home.

“She lived in that house, every day,” he said. “This isn’t a situation where she was subjecting her kids to something that she wasn’t subjecting herself to. I mean, the first question I asked when I saw this case was, ‘How could anybody think that a person in their right mind could live in that house?’”

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Murray has received mental health treatment while in custody, he said. He described her time behind bars as a sort of “freedom” because the home was “far more of a prison than the prison was.”

“Her mental condition changed dramatically,” he said. “She’s a different person than she was when this initially happened.”

Four children were removed from Murray’s house — a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old whom Murray hid from the world, and a 13-year-old and 10-year-old who went to school and were generally known and cared for.

The children are currently residing with their father’s parents, Halpern said.

Police came to Murray’s house on Aug. 28, 2014, after a boy from a neighboring house, a friend of Murray’s 10-year-old son, called his mother upset and asked how he could get babies to stop crying. The neighbor, Betsy Brown, rushed to the house and found two young girls she never knew existed living in squalor and covered in filth. Brown called 911.

Police searched the house and found the remains of three newborn babies in two closets. One still had a placenta and umbilical cord attached. The other two had been dressed in diapers and baby clothes.

Murray told police she did not think she and her boyfriend, Raymond Rivera, 42, could afford to care for more children. Prosecutors ultimately decided to charge Murray with the deaths of the two newborns found clothed.

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Rivera is awaiting trial on charges of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury, and reckless endangerment of a child. He has pleaded not guilty.

In a statement, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said, “This was a very hard case with a very difficult set of facts as it always is when dealing with children who are victims.” “The court has spoken,” he said.


Travis Andersen and Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.