HOUSTON – A hearing was underway Monday to determine the accused killer’s fate in a horrific case that made headlines years ago in Montgomery County.
In 1998, authorities say Don Collins doused his 8-year-old neighbor, Robbie Middleton, with gasoline and lit him on fire. Collins was 13 years old then and is just now going to trial, meaning the judge will have to decide whether he’ll be tried as an adult.
“I thought it was over,” said Colleen Middleton. “That we’d never get justice or closure or anything.”
But to Middleton’s surprise, her son’s murder case has new life. The heinous details of the crime were painfully revived in court.
It happened on Middleton’s eighth birthday. His mother recounted when she visited the crime scene.
“It had a perfect outline of his arms around the tree,” said Middleton. “You could see it. It looked like his body was scorched into that tree.”
Ninety-nine percent of his body was burned, but Middleton survived the attack only to die of skin cancer 13 years later. His death was linked to the severe burns sustained that day.
“I had never seen someone so burned, but still alive,” said one of the paramedics who treated Middleton that day.
Collins is now 28 and charged with murder. He sat in an hours-long court hearing where prosecutors argued he should be tried as an adult. Prosecutors said new evidence surfaced shortly after Robbie’s death. His own testimony that Collins burned him to keep him quiet after sexually assaulting Middleton two weeks prior to the attack.
“It was always Don,” said Robbie’s mother. “No doubt in his mind, it was always, Don. Until the day he died.”
Collins’ attorney says because his client was 13 at the time of the alleged crime, he should not be tried as an adult.
“The state’s investigation was thorough then,” said attorney E. Tay Bond. “They did not have enough evidence then, and they don’t have enough to go forward now.”
The hearing is set wrap on Tuesday. State District Judge Kathleen Hamilton will make a decision shortly after.