- Robbie Middleton was doused in gasoline and set on fire on his eighth birthday in 1998
- He died 13 years later from cancer caused by the burns covering his body
- In a video recorded on his deathbed he accused his alleged attacker Don Collins of raping him two weeks before he was set on fire
- Don Collins, now 27, is to be charged with felony murder
On his eighth birthday he was tied to a tree, doused in petrol and set on fire.
The inferno left Robbie Middleton with third-degree burns to 99 per cent of his body. No-one expected him to survive.
But in a story of staggering courage, Robbie lived. He endured 200 operations and endless therapy to repair the burns.
Tragically, he was to die just weeks short of his 21st birthday from a cancer which doctors blamed on the original injuries.
Final statement: Robbie Middleton is pictured shortly before his death in 2011 around the time when the statement was made where he accused Don Collins of sexual assault
Before: Two pictures showing Robbie Middleton as a young boy before he was attacked near his home on his eighth birthday in 1998 by a 13-year-old Don Collins
After years of such terrible suffering, Robbie’s premature death was to have one positive outcome
In a harrowing 17-minute video made just before he died, he named the man he believed had torched him in Splendora, Texas, in 1998.
And he also claimed that he had been raped by the same person, a 13-year-old neighbour called Don Collins, two weeks before being set alight.
The terrible act was, Robbie alleged, a way of ensuring his silence.
His accusations have opened the way for Collins, now a 27-year-old convicted sex offender, to be charged with felony murder.
The charge is only made for a criminal offence which has happened in conjunction with another crime.
Accused: A mugshot of the alleged attacker Don Collins
Montgomery County attorney David Walker is changing the charges in order to be able to prosecute Don Collins as an adult, despite the fact that committed the crime as a juvenile.
Mr Walker also hopes that the additional accusations of sexual assault will not only explain the torching, but also explain why it took so long for Mr Collins to be prosecuted.
‘It was done to prevent Middleton from talking,’ Walker told the Houston Chronicle. ‘It provides the bridge that we needed for the delay, rather than saying we didn’t have sufficient staffing or something else.’
Robert Ray ‘Robbie’ Middleton was celebrating his eight birthday in 29th April 1998 when he met his neighbour Don Collins on a wooden path near their homes in Splendora, Montgomery County.
Two weeks earlier, according to Robbie Middleton’s statement before his death, the pair had met in the same spot and Mr Collins, then 13, had overpowered the young boy and raped him. Now he wanted him silenced.
‘Don grabbed me by my shoulder and threw gas in my face, after that I don’t really remember anything,’ Robbie Middleton said in the video statement.
The Schulenburg Sticker reported that his mother Colleen said during the trial: ‘It was so hard to take in what my eyes were seeing.
‘All of his hair was scorched, and there was skin hanging around his ankles.
‘A little while later, I walked down to the tree where it happened. There was a perfect outline of Robbie’s body scorched into the bark of the tree.’
Don Collins was not prosecuted for the crime, although police statements reveal that he was held in custody after he made statements only a person at the scene could have made.
In 2001, aged 16, Don Collins was jailed for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy.
Robbie Middleton’s resulting third degree burns on 99 per cent of his body led the young boy spent most of his life in a specialist unit at Shriners Burn Hospital in Galveston.
The rehabilitation, which included over 200 operations and skin grafts, was excruciating, but his mother said he never gave in to self pity and anger.
The Schulenburg Sticker reported how one of the surgeons described how during the first few months at Shriners, the little boy suffered nightmares, convinced that he was being burned again.
Homicide: Robbie Middleton suffered third-degree burns on 99 per cent of his body, and the following 200 operations and skin grafts are what led to his rare cancer diagnose from which he died in 2011
But his haunted sleep was especially dangerous because if he moved about too much, he risked tearing his newly-grafted skin.
‘I grieved for a long time but after a while, Robert became the same happy-go-lucky child and life was good, life was liveable again,’ his mother Colleen told CNN in March this year.
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