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Teens Douse 15-Year-Old Michael Brewer, Set Him On Fire

By Pete Kotz in arson, assault, unsolved
Monday, October 26, 2009 at 11:42 am

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Michael Brewer may have been set ablaze in as beef over a bike
UPDATE: See latest update: 142 people ask for leniency for Matthew Bent, the 15-year-old accused of ordering that Michael be set on fire...

Something went very wrong for 15-year-old Michael Brewer on Sunday. Relatives say he stopped another kid from stealing his father's bike, but he was scared enough by the incident that he refused to attend classes at his Deerfield Beach, Florida middle school on Monday.

Instead, he went to an apartment complex to visit a friend. As he was sitting by the pool, someone came up and doused him with a flammable liquid, then set him ablaze. A neighbor heard the screams and put out the fire with an extinguisher. Michael survived, but he's expected to be hospitalized for five months with massive burns over his torso, arms, and face.

One kid was arrested Sunday over the bike incident. Three more juveniles are in custody today.

UPDATE: The reason Michael Brewer was set ablaze was a senseless as the crime itself: He hadn't paid up on a video game he bought.

According to Sergeant Steve Feeley of the Broward County Sheriff's Office, here's how it went down:

Michael owed 15-year-old Matthew Bent $40 for a video game, but hadn't paid up. So on Sunday, Bent tried to steal Michael's dad's bike as compensation. Micheal thwarted the theft, and his family called the cops. Bent was arrested.

But he was sent home after a brief stay in juvie. Michael skipped school Monday, fearing payback. Bent didn't go to school either.

Monday afternoon, Michael went over to the Lime Street Apartments to visit a friend. Bent just happened to be there as well. Michael was sitting by the pool when he was surrounded by five boys: Bent, Denver Colorado Jarvis, 15; his brother Jeremy Jarvis, 13; Steven Shelton, 15; and Jesus Mendez, 15.

They grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol they found and surrounded Michael. Bent called him a rat. Michael tried to leave but couldn't. Bent ordered the rubbing alcohol poured on Michael. Denver Jarvis doused him with the fluid, then Mendez set him on fire.

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Michael with his friend Nikki and his Malissa
There are differing accounts of what happened after that. Some say a neighbor subdued the flames with a fire extinguishers. Others say Michael ran to the pool and jumped into the water. Either way, he was helicoptered to a Miami hospital, where he's suffering from burns over 80 percent of his body.

At first the boys showed scant regret. "A couple of them last night were laughing about it," Feeley said. But they're beginning to realize laughter will be more spare in the days to come. All five are currently being held in juvenile jail. And some -- if not all -- are almost certain to be tried as adults.

See new MySpace page set up for Michael.

UPDATE II: Michael is on a ventilator at a Miami hospital, and his burns remain life-threatening.

That's the word from Dr.Nicholas Namias, head of the burn unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He says Michael suffered burns over 65 percent of his body. While his face is in fairly good shape, doctors still don't know how much of his arms, legs and fingers he'll be able to use down the road.

"The body was just not intended to be set on fire," Namias told WPLG-TV in a moment of serious understatement.

Due to the extensive burning, Michael remains a risk for infection. Doctors are also expecting organ failures. And because so much of his body was burned, they believe it will be hard to conduct skin grafts to repair damaged areas, since grafting best succeeds when the patient's own skin is used.

"We need skin to replace the burned skin, and despite the modern technologies, there's no good replacement for your own skin," Namias said. "I would say that his young age goes in his favor, but the size of the burn, the depth of the burn, and the fact that he probably inhaled some smoke during his burn is against him."

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Matthew Bent ordered his friends to pour rubbing alcohol on Michael and set him on fire
UPDATE III: Transcripts from a woman's 911 call, and a shameless lawyer pleads for Jeremy Jarvis' release.

"A little boy just caught on fire and he jumped inside of the swimming pool," a female caller tells 911. Screams are then heard in the background as the woman tries to comfort Michael. "You're going to be OK, sweetheart."

The woman asks Michael what happened to him. "Somebody poured stuff on me," he says.

Then she returns to talk to dispatch: "There's fire. There's fire on the grass. He doesn't know who threw what on him."

The paramedics can be heard arriving as the woman tells them what happened. "There was a ball of fire by the entrance, and he was lit. He just ran and ran inside the pool. He was on fire."

In related news, Steve Melnick, the lawyer for 13-year-old Jeremy Jarvis, is pleading for his release. In a bold step of lawyerly shamelessness, he says his client has been traumatized by the attack, and needs to be at home with his family.

"He is a 13-year-old child," Melnick says. "I don't know of his involvement in this case, but from reading just the police reports, it appears that his involvement was on the periphery and wasn't directly involved in this horrible attack on Michael Brewer. And if so, he needs to maybe be home with his parents and begin counseling and therapy because he witnessed a horrible attack."

Melnick contends the kid has been crying non-stop since his arrest.

What he neglects to mention is that Jarvis is traumatized by an attack he helped cause. And despite his supposed regret, deputies say the only boy to show remorse after the incident was Jesus Mendez, the kid who actually lit Michael aflame. The rest -- including Jarvis -- were heard laughing about the assault after their arrests.

UPDATE IV: Michael undergoes what will be the first of his many surgeries.

He underwent surgery using skin grafts from cadavers to temporarily cover the burns. In normal cases, the skin would have been taken from Michael's own body as the preferred method, but it appears he doesn't have enough good skin left to accomplish this.

He remains sedated and in critical condition, but he can respond by squeezing a hand and moving his eyes.

UPDATE V: 13-year-old Jeremy Jarvis has been ruled too young to try as an adult.

Prosecutors say state statutes don't allow them to try him as an adult, since he isn't charged with a capital crime or a life felony. All five teens are charged with aggravated battery. Jesus Mendez, who lit the fire, has also been charged with attempted murder.

Meanwhile, doctors say Michael is making significant improvement. He's thus far been able to avoid the infections common in burning cases.

UPDATE VI: Many of you have blamed the parents of the boys who attacked Michael. You were right. This is a parade of losers, scumbags, and career criminals.

According to an excellent story in the Miami Herald, their list of crimes include child neglect, drunk driving, assault and battery, burglary, fleeing police, drug possession and dealing. Take Dennis Bent, the piece of work who spawned ringleader Matthew Bent.

In 1993, he and two other men broke into the Boca Raton home of Andrew McLeary. Bent claimed McLeary owed him money, so they took valuables and threatened to kill him. Police say Bent stabbed him multiple times with a scissors in the stomach, face and legs.

All three attackers confessed to the crime, but for some reason the most serious charges were dropped. Bent pleaded guilty to just burglary and battery, and ended up doing two years probation. For stabbing a guy multiple times.

In subsequent years, Bent was hit with additional possession and battery charges. He now has 7 kids with his wife of 26 years. But had he been properly sentenced in the original stabbing case, there's a good chance Matthew Bent wouldn't have even been born.

Then there's the parents of the Jarvis brothers, Jeremy and Denver III, who've apparently suffered years of child abuse. Police have been called to their home more than 20 times over fights involving their father, Denver Jr., and their mother Sherry. The state's also yanked the kids from the house in the past over abuse and neglect.

Last year, Sherry claimed that her husband choked her. A month later, they were forced to undergo parenting classes after their kids continually skipped school.

Patricia Hollis, the mother of 15-year-old Steven Shelton, isn't much better. Last year, she led police on a high speed chase with another 10-year-old son in the car. She ran red lights, blew through stop signs, and bolted the wrong way down one-way streets, all while reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. But all she got was 50 hours of community service and an order to get random drug testing. Florida, it seems we have a problem with your judicial system.

And this was the sentence give to a woman who had already been arrested nine times before. She's been previously hit with charges for resisting arrest, child abuse, fraud, impersonation and child cruelty, among others.

Steven Shelton Sr. is even worse, having been arrested a dozen times. He's been convicted of drug dealing, resisting arrest, and battery. He's also been hit with contempt for failing to pay a measly $63 a week in child support.

Weirdly enough, the most empathetic of the bunch is 15-year-old Jose Mendez, the kid who lit Michael on fire. Sheriff's deputies say he was the only one to show remorse after the crime.

He was reportedly going through a troubled patch at the time of the incident. His parents were divorcing, and dad was no longer around. Mendez's mom moved to a better neighborhood to get him away from the rotten kids, but that obviously didn't work.

Still, the boy's problems can't all be pinned on his parents' split. Mom and Dad appear to have no criminal records, but Jose has a 2007 arrest for battery as well.

See latest update: Michael Brewer, Set On Fire Over $40 Video Game, Remains in Critical Condition.


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