Faheem Williams
June 13, 1995 - September 2003
Find A Grave Memorial

In March of 2002, Melinda Williams asked her cousin to take  care of her three children while she served a jail sentence. This would be the last time she would see her son Faheem alive.

A child sized casket sat at the end of the alter surrounded by flowers. On one side were pictures of the child and on the other side was a teddy bear. The child was a seven year old boy named Faheem Williams.   

On January 4, 2003, Sherry Murphey's boyfriend went down to the basement in hopes of finding his boots. The man broke down a locked door and found two small children hiding under a filthy bed. Raheem who was also seven and Tyrone who was four, were both starved and very frightened.

Police were called in and the children were taken to the hospital. While at the hospital, Raheem told the police he had a twin brother named Faheem who he had not seen a long time. On January 5, 2003, police went to the home again, this time  bring a cadaver sniffing dog. In a closet, stuffed in a plastic storage container, were  the remains of Faheem Williams.

Sherry Murphey's teenage son, Wesley, later admitted that he had been wrestling  with Faheem and had punched him in the stomach.  Sherry and her son tried to revive Faheem but were not successful and then they decided to hide his body and his two brothers. Faheem was killed in September of 2002 while Sherry and her son lived in Irvington, New Jersey.  Faheem's body was discovered in the home they lived in in Newark, New Jersey. This means that Faheem's body was carried from house to the next when they moved.

Faheem's autopsy revealed he had died from blunt trauma to the stomach and of starvation. Faheem's death was ruled a homicide.

With one child dead and two others found starving, Sherry Murphy had the nerve to plead innocent of the charge of child endangerment. Wesley Murphy could not wait to talk to the police because he felt that his mother was being unfairly charged with child abuse. He had this to say: "If I knew more stuff to help my mother, I would,". He added that he felt Faheem's own mother had killed him to keep him from talking to people about  abuse he had suffered at her hands. Melinda Williams had been in jail for a child endangerment charge, however, when she was released in August, she could not find Sherry Murphy or her children.

Sadly, the state Division Of Youth And Family Services had been investigating this case of child abuse since 1992 and for whatever reasons, chose not to remove the boys from this situation. So, this is yet another case of the death of a child that could and should have been prevented. The case worker and one supervisor had been on suspension, though with pay. The price Faheem paid for them not doing their jobs, was his life.

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January 26, 2009:

By thester 

(TRENTON) ? The Assembly Judiciary Committee today released legislation Assembly members Sandra Love, Paul D. Moriarty and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to block alimony payments to convicted killers and eliminate inheritance rights for parents who abandon, abuse or neglect a child. 

Under the bill (A-2681), alimony would be denied to any person convicted of a crime that led to the death of another person ? even if the crime was committed outside New Jersey and after the divorce or dissolution of a marriage or civil union. 

The legislation was prompted by the case of Chris Calbi, a 14-year-old-boy from Old Tappan, Bergen County, who died after sustaining a lethal kick to the neck from his mother during a domestic argument. Following his son?s tragic death, 

Calbi?s father found that there was no legal precedent to preclude his having to make alimony payments to his estranged wife upon her parole. 

?This legislation really serves a simple and singular purpose: to keep money out of the hands of those who would go so far as to beat and kill their own family and then expect to receive an alimony payment from a former spouse,? said Love (D-Gloucester.). ?Convicted killers should not be able to profit from their misdeeds.?

The bill also seeks to revise current law to prevent parents who abused their kids from receiving any inheritance settlement from the estates of the deceased children. 

It was prompted by the horrific case of Faheem Williams, the 7-year-old Newark youngster whose mummified corpse was found in an apartment basement by police in 2003 after his mother had abandoned the three of them to live with her cousin. 

Although the cousin pled guilty to manslaughter in Faheem?s death , Faheem?s mother had to be separately barred from seeking the $1 million dollars that the state paid to her son?s estate. 

Under current law, the intestate share of a decedent child?s estate is equally distributed between the surviving parents, regardless of whether that child?s parents abused the child prior to his death. 

?Any parent found to have abused their child should immediately forfeit their right to their child?s estate,? said Moriarty (D- Gloucester). ?No parent who puts their innocent child?s life in danger should get one penny.? 

?We need to take proactive steps to ensure that when a child is the victim of a tragic crime or the subject of abuse their estates are not looted by family members whose very neglect led to their deaths,? said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). 

The measure was released 6-0. It now goes to the Assembly Speaker who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote. 

February 26, 2008

Appeals court rules mom of slain boy can't collect on 
his $1 million estate by Tom Hester/The Star-Ledger 
Tuesday February 26, 2008, 11:53 AM

Star-Ledger File

A state appeals court today ruled the mother of a 7-year-old boy whose mummified remains were found in a basement of a Newark apartment more than five years ago should not inherit his estate of $1 million. Instead, the court ruled, the money should be shared by the child's two brothers.

The court upheld a state Superior Court decision that said because Melinda Williams was declared an unfit mother by the state, she is not entitled to the settlement legal guardians obtained from the state Division of Youth and Family Services in the name of her son, Faheem Williams, who died at age 6 in 2002.

Faheem's body was hidden in the basement of a house on Parker Street, in Newark. It was was not discovered until Jan. 5, 2003, the day after authorities found his brothers, Raheem Williams, 7, and Tyrone Hill, 4, locked in one of the basement's rooms.

The boys had been beaten and burned and had not been fed in two weeks. Murphy's son, Wesley Murphy, 17, was convicted of manslaughter for killing Faheem in the fall of 2002 while demonstrating a wrestling hold on the boy in an Irvington apartment. 

Melinda Williams' cousin, Sherry Murphy, who lived at the Parker address, is serving a 25-year prison term for the abuse of Raheem and Tyrone. Williams sometimes left her children in the care of Murphy.

The shocking case led to a massive overhaul of the state Department of Youth and Family Services.

In declaring Williams an unfit mother, a Superior Court judge declared she used "horrendous judgment" in leaving the children with her cousin for long stretches, and made no effort to reunite with her children. The judge also noted Williams routinely refused to accept or comply with assistance from DYFS. 

Today, a three-judge panel declared, "... In these extraordinary circumstances the parental rights of (Melinda Williams), including any residual right of inheritance, were terminated ...." 

Instead, the judges held the $1 million should be shared by Raheem and Tyrone, who are in foster care. Raheem received $2.75 million in the DYFS settlement and Tyrone received $3.75 million. 

Faheem's mom unfit to care for her other kids

August 10, 2007

The court made a decision that Melinda Williams, Faheem's mother, was NOT fit to raise her other children. The court also found that Tyrone Hill, who is the father of Tyrone Hill Jr, Faheem's brother, to be an unfit parent.

The judge gave his opinion in a 39 page statement making statements such as:

"The consequences of her abuse, neglect, and abandonment were grievous. One child 
killed, treated like rubbish and left rotting in a box in a dark basement. Two remaining 
children, starved and locked away from sight. They suffered psychological wounds so 
profound and deep that they will probably last a lifetime," 

"These children were robbed. They were robbed of their childhood, of a life-long relationship 
with their now dead brother, of any sense of personal security or trust in adults, of their need 
for structure to grow and flourish, and, most of all, any sense that they are somehow
special and loved." 

Judges Donald Collester, Jack Sabatino, and Thomas Lyons were the Judges presiding over this court and making the decision. The Judges said that a decision on if parental rights of the parents would be considered terminated retroactively to the death of Faheem.

A settlement was paid to the estate of Faheem and two of his brothers in the amount of 7.5 million dollars. The lawsuit was filed against the Department Of Family Services for not doing their job, which was to protect children. The case was not closed after the settlement since Melinda Williams was trying to gain custody of the remaining boys and wanted part of the money that was awarded.

The state has asked to have her parental rights terminated back to the time before Faheem's death in order to keep her from getting any of the settlement money. In 2006, State Superior Judge Glenn Grant, of Newark, New Jersey, terminated her rights.

In order to keep her away from the money, the state asked to have her parental rights terminated retroactive to the time of Faheem's death. A state Superior Court Judge Glenn Grant, who sits in Newark, ended those rights in 2006. The intent is remove her rights to custody BEFORE the death of Faheem.

Raheem Williams and Tyrone Hill Jr are now living in a foster home.

DYFS pays $7.5M to settle negligence in Faheem case

Pay out is second only to that for S. Jersey siblings 
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff 

The state has paid $7.5 million to the estate of Faheem Williams, the 7-year-old Newark boy whose mummified remains were found in the basement of a Newark apartment three years ago and whose death led to a massive overhaul of the state's child welfare system. 

The settlement with the estate of Faheem and two siblings amounts to the second-largest pay out by the state Division of Youth and Family Services to settle a botched case. A settlement in a similarly scandalous case in South Jersey last year means the DYFS has paid $20 million to make good on its mistakes. 

"I don't think there is any question that the suffering of these children was enormous," said Kevin Ryan, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, which was formed after the scandal. 

"The pain they endured and the loss they sustained remind me how high the stakes are for children who are maltreated, which is why we all have to redouble our efforts to make child welfare reform real and enduring," he said. 

The Williams case shone a spotlight on major flaws at the DYFS, which closed its files on Faheem despite complaints that he had been abused. Two of his brothers were overlooked as well, a subsequent investigation determined. 

The brothers -- Raheem Williams and Tyrone Hill Jr. -- were discovered sick and emaciated in an adjacent room of the same basement where Faheem's corpse was found Jan. 5, 2003. They survived and are today living in foster care. 

The lawsuit was brought last year by family of the boys, who argued the agency failed to do its job protecting them. 

The case was quietly settled last year, with the state paying $7.5 million after the turn of the fiscal year in July, state officials and lawyers for the plaintiffs said. The size of the settlement was eclipsed only once, last year, when the state agreed to pay $12.5 million to four brothers from Collingswood whose adoptive mother pleaded guilty to depriving them of food and medical care. 

Settlements in both cases allowed the state to avoid what could have been potentially embarrassing trials, experts said. The pay outs came from a tort claims fund that is at least partially self-insured by the state, DYFS and Treasury officials said. 

Representatives of the DYFS and the state Attorney General's Office said Faheem's estate received $1 million under terms of the settlement approved by a Superior Court judge in Newark. Raheem, Faheem's twin, received $2.75 million, while Tyrone was awarded $3.75 million. 

Despite the settlement, the case has not been fully resolved, lawyers said. There is a dispute over legal fees and a key question of whether Melinda Williams, the boys' mother, will share in the money. 

To prevent her from doing so, the state moved to have her parental rights terminated retroactive to the time of Faheem's death. Family Court Judge Glenn Grant in Newark ended those rights in a decision issued over the summer, but Williams has appealed. 

When the family filed its suit last year, state officials were critical of Williams, saying she was equally to blame for what happened to the boys. 

Williams was known to party heavily, sometimes leaving her children with an older cousin, Sherry Murphy, while she frequented local clubs and bars. Police believe Faheem was killed by Murphy's teenage son, Wesley, sometime during the fall of 2002 while he was demonstrating a wrestling hold on the younger boy in an Irvington apartment. 

Murphy claims to have panicked after the incident and left Faheem on the floor to die, later concealing his body and carrying it to her new apartment in Newark. The surviving siblings also were hidden from view because of what they knew, police said. 

Sherry Murphy is serving a 25-year prison term on aggravated assault, criminal restraint and child endangerment convictions in the case; Wesley has served his time for reckless manslaughter in the death of Faheem. 

Raymond R. Connell, the attorney who is serving as administrator of Faheem's estate, said the money due the estate has been deposited in Probate Court and will be held there until a resolution of the mother's case. 

But he predicted a final decision could take years and may eventually reach the state Supreme Court. It's possible a fourth brother, Fuquan, who also was neglected, could share in Faheem's estate if the mother's parental rights are ultimately voided, Connell said. 

Some of the money from the settlement has been distributed to trusts that were established on behalf of Raheem and Tyrone, said Judith Rodner, the lawyer for Tyrone. She called them "protective trusts" and said they have restrictions on how and when the money can be spent. 

Clarence Jackson, another cousin of the boys, said he visits Raheem, 11, and Tyrone, 8, every week and that they're doing fine. They're living with a foster family in New Jersey that has one other child, he said. 

Jackson said he hopes to adopt the boys someday, although their foster family has expressed a similar desire. 

"I believe they'll be fine," Jackson said of the pair. "They're getting all the love and attention they need." 

Jackson, who works for a utility company in New York, said he sees Fuquan every other week. Now 15, Fuquan is living in a residential treatment facility in New York, having recovered enough to leave a hospital. 

"He's doing a lot better," said Jackson, who has been serving as the boy's legal guardian. 

Return To Faheem's Story
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Dedicate new DYFS rules to Faheem Williams
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