Robbie Middleton never forgot how he was raped and then how, a couple of weeks later, the same attacker poured gasoline over his face and set him on fire. He never forgot how he was barely kept alive with skin grafts and several hundred operations during what remained of his short, painful life. In the end, just a few months before his 21st birthday, Robbie succumbed to a type of skin cancer brought on by his injuries.
Before he died, however, Robbie said he wanted to protect other innocent victims from the depraved monster responsible for his then-imminent death. In a video taken at his deathbed, Robbie named his attacker: Don Collins, a convicted sex offender who is now 27 years old.
Robbie’s troubles began in 1998, two weeks brfore his eighth birthday, as he was walking through the woods near his home in Splendora, Texas. There Collins, who was his neighbor, brutally attacked and raped him. Two weeks later on his birthday, Collins attacked him again at the same spot, but this time Robbie said that Collins wanted to make sure he could never tell anyone about the rape. He planned to silence Robbie forever by pouring gasoline over Robbie’s head and setting him on fire. Collins then walked away and left the child for dead as he burned.
Doctors at the Shriner Burn Center in Galveston, Texas, never expected the boy to live after suffering third-degree burns to 99 percent of his body, but Robbie held on. For months, doctors patched him up with cadaver skin that had to be held in place with braces. The boy would wake up in the middle of the night tossing and turning as he relived the horror of being set on fire, and would have to be restrained to prevent tearing the skin grafts. Robbie underwent over 200 operations, and lived the rest of his life in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices, with a horribly disfigured face and body.
Robbie had first named his attacker to police just a few days after the incident. Collins, who was 13 at the time, was arrested and confessed to investigators, however, Robbie’s mother recounted that detectives told her that they lacked the resources to prosecute Collins. Collins was eventually set free, and was jailed again in 2001 at the age of 16 for sexual assault after attacking another eight-year-old boy. He is now serving a prison sentence for failing to register as a sex offender.
In 2001 Robbie’s parentswon a wrongful death lawsuit against Collins in a Texas court and were awarded $150 billion, the largest settlement ever awarded to any plaintiff in the United States. The family says that they see it as symbolic victory, and never expected to receive any money in damages from Collins.
However, according to The Schulenburg Sticker, Craig Sico, the lead attorney representing Robbie’s family in the case, is filing criminal charges of felony murder against Collins, who is otherwise scheduled to be released from jail in August 2013. Sico and his firm are representing the case pro bono and say they are hopeful that Collins will be indicted in the coming weeks.
Slideshow: Frie Starters