Thanks to a deposition he gave on his deathbed (video below), a Texas boy has received justice years after an attacker set him on fire.
His attacker was imprisoned, and the boy’s family received $150 billion in a civil lawsuit, the largest sum in U.S. history.
On his eighth birthday in 1998, a boy tied Robbie Middleton to a tree, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire in the woods in Splendora, Texas, the Mirror.co.uk reports.
Despite the flames that ate away at his body, the young boy stumbled home, collapsing on the street in a ball of fire.
His mother found him close to death, with severe blisters covering his whole body and skin hanging off his ankles. The burns covered 99 percent of his body and left him without eyelids. Only the soles of his feet were unharmed.
While hospital staff told the Middleton family that Robbie wouldn’t survive, he got stronger after countless skin grafts and more than 150 operations.
The boy was severely traumatized and disfigured, but he quickly became known for his relentless optimism.
“The past is the past,” Middleton, who raised money for burn victims and frequently flirted with girls in his ward, would say, according to Mirro.co.uk. “You need to let it go.”
He named his attacker as then 13-year-old Don Collins, but the court was unable to find a motive and acquitted the boy.
At age 20, Middleton’s third degree burns turned into deadly skin cancer. Dying in a hospital bed, Middleton sought justice and recorded a deposition, yet again naming Collins as his attacker.
In this video, however, Middleton also made clear Collins’ motive: to keep him silent. According to Middleton, just 17 days before he was lit on fire, Collins raped him.
“Don grabbed me by my shoulder and threw gas in my face, after that I don’t really remember anything,” Middleton says.
Middleton died in April 2011. Investigators ruled his death a homicide, since he died from the burns. His family was then awarded $150 billion in damages.
His family took his case to court. In February of this year, the jury sentenced the 29-year-old to 40 years, reports Chron. Since 1998 law did not allow 13-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults, he received the maximum sentence for his age at the time, and Middleton finally received justice.