A Jan. 7 article incorrectly identified a 7-year-old boy found dead in Newark after allegedly being abandoned by a caretaker. He is Faheem Williams. His twin brother, Raheem, was found locked in basement with another brother; both of them survived. (Published 1/9/03)

Police are investigating the death of a 7-year-old boy whose decomposed body was left in a storage bin, and are searching for a go-go dancer who they say locked the boy's two brothers in a Newark house and left them to starve.

Newark police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Sherry Murphy, 41, who had been asked to care for the children while their mother was in jail. Police charge that she endangered the welfare of Tyrone Williams, 4, and his brother, Raheem, 7. Prosecutors have not filed homicide charges against Murphy because they are awaiting autopsy results for Raheem's twin brother, Faheem.

"This appalling incident is a horror that defies rational explanation," said Newark Mayor Sharpe James. He said the two little boys lived amid feces, vomit and "all the ill you could think of."

Early Saturday morning, Murphy's boyfriend, Shawn Slappy, started searching in the basement of 188 Parker St. for his missing work boots. When Slappy, 31, kicked in a locked door, he told the Star-Ledger of Newark, he saw "a head with hair on it" lying beneath a bed. He called the police, who discovered the boys and brought them to Newark's University Hospital.

When Raheem Williams was able to speak on Sunday, he told police officers, "I have a brother I haven't seen for a while." Police officers returned to the home and quickly discovered Faheem Williams's severely decayed body in a separate room.

Police say the boys' mother, Melinda Williams, had left them with Murphy, who is a cousin, in March while Williams served a prison term at Essex County Jail on an assault conviction. When she was released in August, she told police she could not find Murphy or her sons. On Saturday, Williams rushed to see her sons and was hit by a car. She is in a New York City hospital.

University Hospital official Rogers Ramsey said the boys are in fair condition. When James visited the boys this morning, he found them emaciated and suffering from burns. But they were "friendly and polite," and one of the children offered him half of a banana he had been given to eat, he said.

New Jersey's Department of Human Services reported that since 1992 it had investigated 10 complaints against Melinda Williams, who also has an 11-year-old son. They included accusations of a filthy home, feces on the floor and burns on the children, and allegations she beat the children.

In three cases, workers substantiated the charges, including that she left the children unsupervised. But officials said today they could not determine from their records what action was taken.

Juana Jimenez, a homemaker who had raised her six children across the street from Murphy's home, described her neighbor as unfriendly and often rushing between her car and home. Jimenez, 68, said she had seen Murphy with two older girls, but she had never seen the boys until she watched police carry them away Saturday morning wrapped in white blankets.

"I never heard those kids," she said. "I never heard them crying or playing or anything."

But she had been troubled for the past week by a sewerlike stench in the neighborhood and had scoured her toilets and sinks with bleach to remove the smell. With the arrival of the police this weekend, Jimenez said the scent went away.

"I feel like my heart is swollen," she said. "How can you harm a kid?"

Police officers in Newark hang a poster of Sherry Murphy, who is being sought on charges of child endangerment. Newark Mayor Sharpe James, left, said Tyrone and Raheem Williams were emaciated and burned.