Defendant says drug debt led to burning

March 14, 2012 at 5:20 PM
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 14 (UPI) -- The alleged ringleader in setting a Florida boy ablaze said the fire was set because the boy owed a drug debt to another boy charged in the attack.

Matthew Bent, 17, told investigators the night of the Oct. 12, 2009, attack that the victim, Michael Brewer, then 15, had owed Jesus Mendez money for marijuana, a statement obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel shows.

The newspaper said the statement was the first indication a debt over marijuana was involved in the Deerfield Beach attack and no other witness has said anybody other than Bent had a dispute with Brewer.

Other accounts indicated Brewer had owed Bent $40 for a children's video game.

Prosecutors say Bent was the ringleader in the attack, in which Brewer was doused with rubbing alcohol and set afire, causing second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body.

Mendez, 18, and a co-defendant, Denver Jarvis, 17, pleaded no contest last month to second-degree attempted murder. Mendez, who admitted flicking the lighter to set Brewer on fire, was sentenced to 11 years in prison, a year of house arrest and 18 years' probation. Jarvis was sentenced to eight years in prison, a year of house arrest and 21 years' probation.

Bent, who has been charged with second-degree attempted murder, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Brewer, who survived by jumping into a nearby swimming pool, spent more than two months in the hospital. He has mostly recovered from his wounds, the Sun-Sentinel said.

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