Blackstone - The bodies of three infants were found on Thursday in a filthy house where four other children were removed by authorities last month, a Massachusetts prosecutor said.
A woman who lives at the home was arrested on charges related to the living conditions at the house, according to police. Prosecutors said Erika Murray, 31, would be arraigned on Friday on charges including intimidation of a witness.
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Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Junior said authorities don't know when or how the babies died, or their ages and genders. No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the deaths.
Detectives investigating a case of reckless endangerment of children found the bodies at the house in Blackstone, about 80km southwest of Boston on the Rhode Island line. Investigators working in the house have been wearing hazmat suits, and are decontaminated when they leave, the prosecutor said.
Covered with faeces
"The house is filled with vermin," Early said. "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. The house is in a deplorable condition."
Early said four other children, ages 13, 10, 3 and 6 months old were removed from the house Aug. 28 after a neighbour who discovered their living conditions notified police.
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The prosecutor said one of the children in the house approached the neighbour about a child who wouldn't stop crying. Early said the 6-month-old was found covered with faeces lying on a bed.
The woman who was arrested was expected to remain in police custody overnight, police spokesman John Guilfoil said. It was not immediately known whether Murray has an attorney.
Marilynn Soucy, 68, who lives a few doors down from the house, said in a telephone interview she's still in shock at the news in the neighbourhood where she has lived for 35 years.
"I am so disgusted. It hasn't really registered in my head yet," she said. "My husband and I raised seven children. We have 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I cannot imagine hurting a child."
She said she and her husband, Bob, had rarely seen the couple who lived in the house at least three years, or their children. She said they occasionally saw the 10-year-old, a boy, playing outside or the woman sit on her porch.
Soucy said she never heard any major complaints about the couple, other than her grandkids noted once that the house "smelled".
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The state Department of Children and Families said on Thursday children who were living at the home are in state custody, and that the department had not been involved with the family until it received a report of possible abuse or neglect.
Early said it's too soon to know if charges will be filed in the infants' deaths, or against whom, because investigators don't even know who was living at the home when they died. It wasn't immediately clear where the children's parents were.
Early said investigators still have much to do and are expected to be on the scene overnight. "I can't give you answers right now," Early said.