One was the neighborhood bully, a 10-year-old raised by his blind single father, reviled for throwing rocks, picking fights and vandalizing cars and homes. The other was a toddler eagerly learning his ABCs, content to while away the hours coloring or listening to the local librarian read aloud.
The two young lives collided Wednesday when, police say, the older boy lured the 3-year-old out of a library, beat him with a baseball bat and dumped him in a ditch.
Amir Beeks died the next day and the other boy, who was not identified by authorities, has become one of the youngest people in New Jersey to be charged with murder.
Gov. James E. McGreevey, a former Woodbridge mayor, has asked Human Services Commissioner Gwendolyn L. Harris for a report on the Division of Youth and Family Services' involvement with the older boy.
"The governor knows the family of the victim, so obviously he is upset and shaken," Ellen Mellody, a McGreevey spokeswoman, said Friday.
It is the second time this year McGreevey has asked about the agency's handling of a case. The first was in January, after two abused boys and the body of their brother were found in a Newark basement.
The Assn. for Children of New Jersey renewed its call for the agency to review all cases involving at-risk children still in their own homes.
Joe Delmar, a Youth and Family Services spokesman, declined to comment on the case.
A state official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 10-year-old's case was closed in July, not long after a visit by a caseworker. The agency was told by school officials that the boy's behavior and grades were improving, the source said.