Woman charged with child endangerment after 7-year-old found dead

Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 9:24 p.m.
NEWARK, N.J. - A go-go dancer who had been left in charge of her young cousins was charged with child endangerment Monday after one boy's corpse was found in a plastic storage bin and his two starving brothers were rescued from a locked room.
Sherry Murphy, 41, is accused of beating and burning the three boys. No homicide charge was filed because an autopsy of 7-year-old Faheem Williams had not been completed, authorities said.
Faheem's body was found in a basement storage bin Sunday. He had been dead for weeks, authorities said.
A day earlier, Faheem's twin brother, Raheem, and another brother, Tyrone, 4, were found locked in a basement room in the same house. They were being treated for starvation and dehydration at University Hospital in Newark.
Both were in fair condition Monday, hospital spokesman Rogers Ramsey said. He did not give details, but Mayor Sharpe James said Tyrone had burns from his neck down his body.
Police said they were searching the area for Murphy.
Murphy's cousin, Melinda Williams, is the boy's mother. Williams is hospitalized in New York City after a car accident, authorities said.
Williams told police she put the children in Murphy's care in March when she went to the Essex County jail to serve time for an assault conviction. She was released in August but told police she could not find Murphy or the children.
Both women work as go-go dancers, James said. He declined to say where.
Murphy's boyfriend, Shawn Slappy, found the surviving boys Saturday while looking for work boots in the basement. Slappy, 31, told police he had been living in the house for two weeks and knew nothing about the children, prosecutors said.
Police found Faheem's body only after one of the other boys told police at the hospital that his brother had been missing for weeks.
Neighbors said Murphy kept to herself and was not well known in her working-class neighborhood of two- and three-story multifamily dwellings.
Yellow police tape blocked the sidewalk in front of the two-story row house Monday as flurries fell. A police car and two officers kept reporters from approaching the door.
Neighbor Debra Barnes, 44, said she had never exchanged a greeting with Murphy since moving in two months ago and had never seen the three boys. However, she said she saw a 12- or 13-year-old girl about two weeks ago who referred to Murphy as "mom."
"That's the only child I've seen with her," Barnes said.
Barnes said Murphy looked well-kept, but was not friendly and typically seemed angry.
Daniel Oliviera, 19, who lives across the street, said he saw one little boy, who looked about 7, playing in front of the house after the first snowfall.
"He didn't have no coat on. He had a little sweater, a turtleneck sweater," Oliviera said.

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