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Entries in Burning (7)

Tuesday
Jun192012

Jurors Convict Accused Ringleader in Teen Burning Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- Jurors in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Tuesday evening convicted 17-year-old Matthew Bent of aggravated battery for his role in the 2009 torching of Michael Brewer, his middle school classmate.

Prosecutors failed to secure a conviction on Bent's second-degree attempted murder charge. Bent would have faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted on that charge. The maximum sentence for aggravated battery is 15 years.

After three days of testimony from Brewer, his parents and several other boys who'd witnessed the attack, a six-person jury in the Broward County Courthouse began deliberations Monday afternoon, but adjourned after three hours without a verdict. Tuesday's deliberations were delayed when jurors said they could not understand what was being said in an audio recording of a conversation between Bent and his alleged accomplices taped by police following their arrest.

At noon on Tuesday, the jury sent a note to Broward County Judge Michael Robinson asking for a transcript of the recording, but Robinson replied that no transcript was available.

Prosecutors argued that Bent was trying to avoid responsibility for the violence by offering others money to hurt Brewer, who was 15 at the time. But defense attorneys claimed that Bent never intended the attack, calling the case an example of "prosecution overkill."

Robinson will sentence Bent on July 23. The prosecution will seek the maximum sentence, and the defense has requested a pre-sentencing investigation.

On Oct. 12, 2009, Bent and two boys, all 15 at the time, surrounded Michael Brewer, their middle school classmate, near an apartment complex in Deerfield Beach, Fla. One boy poured rubbing alcohol on Brewer, and another flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.

Brewer survived the attack by jumping into a nearby pool, but not before second- and third-degree burns covered nearly two-thirds of his body.

While Bent played no physical role in the attack, the prosecution accused him of orchestrating it in pursuit of cold-blooded revenge against Brewer. In closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Maria Schneider stressed to the jury the disputes between Bent and Brewer in the day leading up to the attack.

The previous day, Brewer's parents reported Bent to the police for allegedly attempting to steal a family bicycle. Brewer said he stayed home from school on Oct. 12 fearing possible retaliation by Bent, who he testified Thursday was targeting him because he refused to buy drug paraphernalia from Bent.

Denver Jarvis, 17, who is serving eight years in prison for pouring the alcohol on Brewer, testified Wednesday that Bent offered him $5 to do so, Schneider reminded jurors. Other witnesses testified that Bent had offered money to anyone who would beat up Brewer.

Bent's attorneys rested their case Monday morning without calling a single witness and told the court that Bent would not testify in his own defense.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Johnny McCray said Bent "will have scars for the rest of his life" because of the trial, and argued that convicting an "innocent child" would not bring justice for Brewer.

Defense attorney Perry Thurston called the allegation of Bent's offer a fabrication on Friday. The attack happened spontaneously after the boys chanced upon a jug of rubbing alcohol on the street, he said.

Brewer has undergone extensive skin graft surgery and physical therapy since he was attacked. His mother Valerie Brewer testified that her son still requires therapy in order to keep his muscles flexible enough for routine functions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun182012

Teen Burning Jurors Begin Deliberating in Florida

Hemera/Thinkstock(DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.) -- Jurors began deliberating Monday in the trial of a Florida teen accused of planning the torching of his middle-school classmate after the prosecution urged them not to let him "get away with letting other people do his dirty work for him."

In her closing argument, prosecutor Maria Schneider told jurors Monday that Matthew Bent, 17, on trial for second-degree attempted murder, was trying to avoid responsibility when he offered money for the 2009 attack in which Michael Brewer was soaked with rubbing alcohol and then set on fire.

"Matthew Bent was the reason why this crime happened," Schneider said. "He was offering people money to beat Michael, not to scare Michael."

Bent faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

On Oct. 12, 2009, Bent and two other teens confronted Brewer, who was 15 at the time, near an apartment complex after their middle school let out in Deerfield Beach, Fla. One boy doused Brewer with rubbing alcohol and another flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.

Brewer survived the attack by jumping into a nearby pool, but not before second- and third-degree burns covered nearly two-thirds of his body.

Schneider stressed to the six-person jury the disputes between Bent and Brewer prior to the attack.

Brewer testified Thursday that Bent targeted him because he refused to buy drug paraphernalia from Bent. And the day before the attack, Brewer's parents reported Bent to the police for allegedly attempting to steal a family bicycle. Brewer said he stayed home from school on Oct. 12, fearing possible retaliation by Bent.

The bad blood between Brewer and Bent reveal revenge as a clear motive for Bent to plan the attack on Brewer, Schneider argued.

Denver Jarvis, 17, is serving eight years in prison and Jesus Mendez, 18, was sentenced to 11 years for their roles in the attack. Jarvis poured the rubbing alcohol on Brewer and Mendez flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.

Bent's attorneys rested their case Monday morning after informing the court that Bent would not testify in his own defense and without calling a single witness.

Defense attorney Perry Thurston called the allegation of Bent's offer a fabrication on Friday. The attack happened spontaneously after the boys chanced upon a jug of rubbing alcohol on the street, he said.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Johnny McCray said Bent "will have scars for the rest of his life" because of the trial, and argued that convicting an "innocent child" would not bring justice for Brewer.

"This is prosecution overkill," Thurston said.

Brewer has undergone extensive skin graft surgery and physical therapy since he was attacked. His mother Valerie Brewer testified that her son still requires therapy in order to keep his muscles flexible enough for routine functions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun142012

Victim in Florida Teen Burning Takes the Stand

Comstock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Michael Brewer, who was nearly burned to death by his middle-school classmates in 2009, took the stand Thursday against the teen accused of planning the attack.

On the afternoon of Oct.12, 2009, Bent and two other teens, all 15 at the time, confronted Brewer near an apartment complex in Deerfield Beach, Fla. One boy doused Brewer with rubbing alcohol they found in a container on the street, then another set him ablaze with a lighter.

"I felt like I was going to die," Brewer testified Thursday afternoon, NBC 6 Miami reported.

More than two and a half years after the fire covered 65 percent of Brewer's body with second- and third-degree burns, he confronted the alleged ringleader of the attack,17-year-old Matthew Bent, in a trial that has captured national attention. Charged with attempted second-degree murder and facing 30 years in prison if convicted, Bent was angry at him, Brewer said, because he refused to buy drug paraphernalia from Bent.

"He tried to sell me a bowl that I didn't want,'' Brewer testified, explaining that a bowl can be used to smoke marijuana or tobacco, according to the Miami Herald.

Brewer's testimony contradicted his statement in a deposition that the source of his dispute with Bent was a $40 video game. Under cross-examination, Brewer admitted that his previous statement was a lie.

The attack came one day after Brewer's parents reported Bent to the police after Bent attempted to steal a family bicycle. Brewer had stayed home that day from Deerfield Beach Middle School, where all the boys attended, fearing possible retaliation by Bent.

While Bent played no physical role in the violence, prosecutors aim to convince the jury that Bent orchestrated the attack in a quest for revenge against Brewer.

Denver Jarvis, who is serving eight years in prison for pouring the rubbing alcohol on Brewer, testified Wednesday that Bent offered him $5 or $10 to "throw that on Michael," the Associated Press reported.

Jesus Mendez, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for flicking the lighter that ignited Brewer, is expected to testify Friday.

Brewer survived the attack by jumping into a nearby swimming pool, but his mother Valerie testified Tuesday that her son still requires physical therapy in order to keep his muscles suffciently flexible.

Listen to the 911 call placed after the attack here

Mendez and Denver Jarvis, who is serving eight years in prison for pouring the rubbing alcohol on Brewer, pleaded no contest in the incident and took plea bargains. In February, Bent rejected a plea offer limiting his imprisonment to 10 years, opting for a jury trial instead.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr172012

Burning Bodies Discovered in Florida Were Two Young Men

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Two bicyclists out for an early morning ride in Florida made a gruesome discovery when a fire turned out to be two burning bodies.  Police have now disclosed that the victims were two young men.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office received a call at 6:41 a.m. on Sunday about a fire that had been spotted on Cady Way Trail on a grassy hill beside a small wooden bridge.  The trail is often used by bicyclists and walkers.

"The caller(s) were using the trail when they came upon the fire and the realization that it could be two bodies within the flames," the sheriff's office said in a news release.

Firefighters and sheriff's deputies responded to the scene and confirmed that two bodies were being burned.

Authorities are classifying the incident as a double homicide.  Orange County Sheriff's Capt. Angelo Nieves said the victims were "two young males," but said that no positive identification has been made yet.

Authorities also discovered a small fire that was extinguished outside a nearby apartment complex and believe that the two fires are related.

"Based on evidence, they believe it to be associated with the crime," Nieves said, but he could not provide any details as to how authorities believe the fires are related.

Investigators are asking that anyone who has heard anything about the crimes or who may have seen something to call Crimeline at 407-423-TIPS.

"It's a well-traveled area, but at that time of the morning, there's not a lot of activity," Nieves said.  "It's still somewhat dark and the area in which the bodies were located was somewhat of a wooded area."

Authorities have no suspects at this time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb012012

Caught on Tape: NJ Police Officers Pull Man from Burning Car

Thinkstock/Getty Images(BARNEGAT, N.J.) -- Two New Jersey police officers pulled a man from his burning car in a dramatic rescue that was caught on tape by a dashboard camera in the officers’ cruiser.

Barnegat, N.J., police officers Lauren Keilitz and Michael Diblasi responded to reports of a fire in a residential neighborhood around 8 p.m. Monday, authorities from the Barnegat Police Department said.

When they arrived, they discovered a car parked in the driveway of one of the neighborhood’s two-story homes fully enveloped in flames.

“Fully involved,” one of the officers can be heard saying in the video, right before both officers rushed to the burning car, a 2005 BMW 745.

Police say Keilitz and Diblasi found a man, described as “incapacitated,” sitting in the car’s driver seat, but were unable to reach him because the driver’s door was stuck.

Diblasi, a nine-year veteran of the police force, ran back to the patrol car to retrieve a window punch, which he then used to smash through the window, department spokesman Lt. Keith Germain told the Asbury Park Press.

Keilitz, on the force for eight years, was then able to open the driver’s door and pull the man, identified as Mario Dischiavi, from the burning vehicle.

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Dischiavi, 57, who lives at the home where the car was parked, was seen by neighbors listening to music inside the vehicle before it caught fire, Germain said.

He was treated for smoke inhalation at a nearby hospital and is now recovering at home.

Neither Keilitz nor Diblasi suffered any injuries in the rescue.

The cause of the vehicle fire remains under investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec182011

Man Smelling of Gasoline Questioned in Elevator Burning Death

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A man who walked into a police precinct house smelling of gasoline is being questioned in the death of a woman who was set on fire in her apartment building elevator in a horrific attack that was caught on surveillance video, New York police said Sunday.

The 47-year-old man, who walked into a Brooklyn police station shortly after the attack Saturday, has not been charged, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.

Police did not release the man's name, but Browne said he knew Deloris Gillespie, the 64-year-old woman who was killed.

The video from the two surveillance cameras show a man dressed like an exterminator waiting outside the elevator when its doors opened on the floor where Gillespie lived.

"It was apparent he knew she was on the elevator," Browne said Saturday.

The attacker stepped in and began spraying Gillespie, who was carrying bags of groceries. To protect herself, she turned and crouched as the man continued spraying her face, head and body.

She moved farther back into the elevator, but the man, using a thin, flaming, long-stemmed torch, lit a rag that was stuffed in a bottle and set her afire with it.

He backed out of the elevator as she fell to the floor, then tossed the bottle onto her.

Photos of the attacker, released by police, show him in a black jacket and what appear to be surgical gloves, with a white dust mask on top of his head. He was holding a canister and, from it, spraying a liquid that police have not yet identified.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr032011

Florida Pastor Terry Jones Has Received 300 Death Threats

Mario Tama/Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- Florida Pastor Terry Jones -- who last month supervised as another pastor soaked the Islamic holy book in kerosene and set it ablaze -- and members of his small Gainesville, Fla., church have received at least 300 "credible" death threats since demonstrations in Afghanistan against Jones' actions turned violent, causing some Afghan protesters to lash out at United Nations workers and others thought to be associated with the West.

ABC News has learned that the FBI is alerting Jones and Wayne Sapp, the man who actually lit the Koran on fire, of specific threats -- ones that reference a time and place where an attack may occur.

They have "crossed the point of no return," Sapp told ABC News. "We can't go back now," he said.

In an interview this weekend with ABC News, Jones said that he did not feel personally responsible for the violent protest at a United Nations compound in Afghanistan on Friday left 11 dead. Instead, he said, the violence proved his point.

"We wanted to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element," Jones said. "I think [the attack] proves that there is a radical element of Islam."

The deaths followed a protest march in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday against the actions of the American pastors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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