NEWARK, N.J. – A woman who admitted hiding the body of a 7-year-old relative in a basement storage bin was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison, and her son, who said he killed the child in a wrestling move, was sentenced to three.
Faheem Williams' (search) decomposed body was found stuffed in a basement storage bin three years ago, and his twin and half brother were discovered living in squalor and filth. The case generated national outrage and led to an overhaul of New Jersey's child welfare agency.
"I wouldn't have treated objects or clothes as these kids were treated," Superior Court Judge Michael R. Casale said as he sentenced Sherry Murphy, 43.
The mother of the three boys had entrusted them to Murphy, her cousin, before going to serve an unrelated jail term.
Sherry Murphy (search) pleaded guilty in September to criminal restraint, aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child; a charge of attempted murder was dropped. Her 19-year-old son, Wesley, pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter.
Because he has been in custody since January 2003, Wesley Murphy could be freed on parole in several weeks. His mother will not be eligible for 131/2 years.
In September, Wesley Murphy testified that he killed Faheem while doing a wrestling move that included forcefully driving his knee into the child's abdomen.
Casale said that although Wesley Murphy is borderline mentally retarded, "he should have known better" than to roughhouse with a small child. He added, however, "I'm not blind to the fact that the defendant grew up in the same dysfunctional environment as the victims in this case."
Sherry Murphy admitted finding Faheem's body on the floor of her Irvington apartment in September 2002, trying to revive him, and then leaving the corpse there for several days. She took the plastic bin with her when she moved to Newark, she said, where it was found in the basement in January 2003.
She also admitted she provided inadequate food and water to Faheem's twin, Raheem, and a younger half brother, Tyrone Hill.
The state had investigated abuse complaints involving Faheem, but closed the file 11 months before his body was found.
The victims' mother, Melinda Williams, had been released from jail and was living in New York when Faheem's body was found.
In court Wednesday, she complained that Wesley Murphy's sentence was too light: "A life taken — another life should be taken."
After expressing sympathy for Williams, Casale rebuked her.
"You are not blameless. You are the parent. Look in the mirror," Casale said.