Petition for murder charge filed against man suspected in burn victim's attack, death

Petition for murder charge filed against man suspected in burn victim's attack, death

Credit: MIDDLETON FAMILY

Robbie Middleton before he was set on fire in 1998

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by Shern-Min Chow/ KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 18 at 12:53 PM

HOUSTON— The Montgomery County Attorney’s Office filed a petition Tuesday for a murder charge against Donald Collins, the man suspected of setting a Splendora boy on fire in 1998, which eventually led to the young man's death.

Donald Collins, now 27 years old, has long been the main suspect in the horrific attack on Robbie Middleton. Collins was only 13 when he allegedly doused 8-year-old Middleton with gasoline and set him on fire. Middleton sustained burns to over 99 percent of his body and eventually developed skin cancer.

Thirteen years later, dying from those burns, Middleton gave an unnerving deposition about Collins.

“[Collins] pulled my clothes down and started raping me,” he said and went on to testify Collins set him on fire two weeks later.

Middleton’s sister Heather says that’s why he was burned: “To keep him quiet about being raped.”

Collins was convicted of sexually assaulting another 8-year-old boy, his cousin, years later.

He was never charged, however, in Middleton’s assault and maintains his innocence in that crime.

While Collins was in a state prison in Woodinville he told 11 News, “I don’t remember everything I said that day. I was young. I enjoyed the attention.”

Authorities did not seek assault charges back then, saying there was conflicting testimony from Middleton, who was heavily medicated because of his burns.

Once Middleton’s death in 2011 was ruled a homicide, it opened the door for a murder charge. Because Collins was a child when the crime occurred, legal technicalities kept prosecutors from officially charging him, but Middleton’s family and attorneys kept pushing for justice.

Judge Kathleen Hamilton, of the 359th District Court, will now decide if the case moves from the County Attorney, which handles juvenile crime, to the District Attorney’s Office for adult prosecution. Authorities hope the transfer hearing will be held in December.

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