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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Abusive Mother Can’t Inherit Dead Son’s Estate

NEWARK, N.J. (CN) - A New Jersey appellate court ruled that a Newark mother is not entitled to the $1 million settlement awarded to the estate of her 7-year-old son, whose decaying body was found in a storage bin in the basement where his mother's cousin kept his twin and younger brother locked up without food, water or a toilet.

"How cruel, ironic and inequitable it would be to hold that M.W. (the mother) retained the right to inherit $1 million from the child she burned, abused, neglected and abandoned," Judge Collester wrote.

The surviving boys were found locked in a dark basement by their mother's cousin, Sherry Murphy, who assumed care of the kids when their mom abandoned them. The boys, age 4 and 7, were severely malnourished, covered with burns and bruises, and reeked of feces and urine.

Murphy admitted to having locked the boys in the basement without basic necessities, forcing them to eat their vomit and drink urine to survive. She also said she burned the 4-year-old by placing him in scalding water. The boys claimed she tied their hands and feet, burned them with cigarettes and beat them.

The body of their decaying 7-year-old brother was found in a Rubbermaid storage bin about 15 feet from where the two boys were found the day before. The corpse was so badly decomposed that only DNA could verify the identity, and the medical examiner said the boy had probably been dead for several weeks. The death certificate listed the death as a homicide and noted blunt trauma to the head and abdomen.

Murphy's son, Wesley, pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter that caused the 7-year-old's death.

Though the boy was abused and abandoned in life, he was mourned in death by more than 400 people who attended his funeral, including the state governor, a U.S. senator and the mayor of Newark.

Murphy was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

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