A friend of the woman whose 7-year-old son was found dead in a storage bin was arrested Wednesday and accused of sexually assaulting the slain boy's twin brother.

Joseph Reese molested the brother while living with their mother in Irvington, N.J., in August 2001, said Essex County Executive Assistant Prosecutor Charlotte L. Smith.

Reese was arrested four days after his alleged victim and his brother, Tyrone Williams, 4, were found burned and malnourished in a locked and filthy basement in a home in Newark. The next day, investigators located the body of the victim's twin brother, Faheem Williams, in a storage bin in the basement.

The three boys were in the care of exotic dancer Sherry L. Murphy since about March, when their mother, Melinda Williams, was jailed on assault charges. The women are cousins.

Murphy, 41, is being sought on child endangerment charges. Williams, 31, is in critical condition in a New York hospital after being struck by a car Saturday.

Reese, 45, of Orange, is charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of child endangerment.

Reese waived his right to appear for his arraignment Wednesday afternoon, leaving an assistant public defender to enter his innocent plea. Deirdre McMahon told the judge that her client had recently lived in a trailer behind an empty lot in Orange. She did not speak to reporters after the short hearing.

Later, Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Wright said that Reese gave a statement to investigators, but she declined to say if the surviving boys had spoken about him.

Wright said Reese is friends with both the boys' mother and Murphy but told investigators he was not romantically involved with either. Investigators don't know how long he lived in Irvington with Williams, but he had described it as off and on, Wright said.

Reese was being held on $100,000 bail.