Three Florida teens accused of burning 15-year-old Michael Brewer alive pleaded not guilty to attempted murder today, CNN reports.
Matthew Bent and Denver Jarvis, both 15, and Jesus Mendez, 16, along with two others, are accused of pouring rubbing alcohol over Brewer and setting him alight in an apartment complex in Deerfield Beach, Florida on Oct. 12.
According to investigators quoted on CNN.com, the day before Brewer was set on fire, Bent approached him to collect the $40 he allegedly owed Bent for a video game. Brewer had no money so Bent took his father’s bicycle as collateral. Brewer called the police and Bent was later arrested.
The next day, Bent and four other boys confronted Brewer and called him a “snitch”. They then set him on fire.
After being set on fire, Brewer made the conscious decision to jump into a nearby swimming pool, but not until 65 per cent of his body had already suffered severe burns.
Witnesses of the incident say Mendez set Brewer on fire with a lighter after Bent instigated the attack. Mendez admitted to setting Brewer on fire and acknowledged that it was a “bad decision” in an official statement.
Brewer was recently taken out of intensive care at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center, but still faces many months of recovery there. Doctors say his face and hands were largely spared, though they say he will need multiple skin grafts and surgeries, CNN reports. Up until last week Brewer was breathing through a ventilator.
Bent, Jarvis and Mendez are all being charged as adults. Two other teens involved are being charged as juveniles and their names cannot be released by law.
Bent’s lawyer has publicly denounced the fact that his client is being charged as an adult.
The three boys will return to court on Jan. 17, 2010. If convicted they could face up to 30 years in prison.