Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Burned Alive – The Slow Death of Robbie Middleton

A heartbreaking, deathbed video of a boy who suffered 99 per cent burns was shown in court on Thursday where he named the teenager who raped him and then set him alight in an attempt to cover up his crime.

Robbie Middleton's frail voice named suspect Donald Collins as his rapist and torturer, just shortly before he passed away, aged 21, in 2011.

Defendant Don Collins, allegedly tied eight-year-old Robert Middleton to a tree, doused him with gasoline, and set him on fire in 1998. Collins was 13 years old at the time

Robert Middleton.

Robbie succumbed to cancer, believed to have been caused by the horrific burn injuries he suffered 13 years before. A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

In 1998, Robbie was tied to a tree and set alight on his 8th birthday in woodland behind his home in Splendora, Texas.

Collins, 29, is on trial for capital murder over Robbie's death but will not face the death penalty because he was 13 years old when the attack happened.

He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in jail.

At trial on Thursday, the jury was shown a 30-minute video of Robbie just 17 days before he died.

Robert Middleton.

According to the Houston Chronicle, on the tape, Robbie said: 'Don grabbed me, turned me around and threw gas in my face.'

He said that he was blinded by the gasoline but when he realized he was on fire, he started to run from the woodland trail back home. 

He added: 'I was running as fast as I could but I couldn't see where I was running to', recalling that he was screaming and in horrific pain. 

Robert Middleton suffered burns across 99 percent of his body and endured years of physical therapy before he died in 2011 from skin cancer.

The 21-year-old Robbie was then asked by the interviewer, attorney Craig Sico, if he was sexually assaulted by Collins.

Robbie replied that two weeks before he was burned, Collins 'took me out into the woods where I was burned. He pulled my clothes down and started raping me'.

The prosecution has alleged that Collins set eight-year-old Robbie on fire to prevent his crime being discovered.

While the jury watched the video, the defendant turned his back to the screen and seemed to read a newspaper, the Chronicle reported. 

It was determined last year that Collins, could be tried as an adult in the murder trial even though he was 13 years old when he allegedly raped and set eight-year-old Robbie Middleton.

Collins has pleaded not guilty.

His defense lawyer has claimed that Robbie, who spent most of his life at Shriner's Children's Hospital in Galveston, named Collins along with many others soon after the attack. 

Attorney E. Tay Bond said there was not enough evidence to convict Collins and accused the Middleton family's attorney of making up the rape theory.

The defense team added that there were no witnesses to the attack and claimed prosecutors were playing to the jury's emotions. 

Robbie's mother Colleen Middleton choked back tears as she told the jury on Wednesday about how Robbie told her Don Collins, 13, had tied him up and set him on fire.

'Do not expect the defense to bring an eyewitness to this tragedy because there is not one,' Bond told jurors.

'There are no witnesses from the woods except for Robbie.'

However prosecutors countered that witnesses will testify that Collins admitted to them that he poured gasoline on Robbie.

'Our case is based on the testimony of adults who have come forward and can tell you what this man did when they were children,' Montgomery County prosecutor Kelly Blackburn said in his opening statement.

Collins was convicted of raping another eight-year-old boy in 2001 at gunpoint.

From the age of 16, he spent four years in a juvenile detention center for the crime.

The victim testified at a 2013 hearing to determine whether Collins should be tried as an adult for the crime against Robbie Middleton.

The victim said that Collins threatened to burn him if he told anyone about the assault.

A judge determined last March that Collins could be tried for murder as an adult, despite being a teenager at the time.

In 1998, Robbie had named Collins as his attacker and the 13-year-old was arrested.

Collins spent several months in juvenile detention but was released after prosecutors said they didn't have enough evidence to pursue the case

On Wednesday, Robbie's mother Colleen Middleton choked back tears as she told the Houston court how Collins had 'stalked' her son in the days before the attack.

She testified that Robbie told her Don Collins, 13, had tied him up and set him on fire.

Mrs Middleton, who found her badly-burned son collapsed by her home, said that in the months after the attack he was so delirious with pain that he named everyone he knew as his attacker - including the family dog. 

However, after almost a year, and when he began to regain lucidity, he named Don Collins as his attacker - and never wavered.

Mrs Middleton said it had been a 'long road' for the family and they were unclear if Robbie would ever get justice for the horrific injuries he had suffered.

She said: 'When Robert died, we were thinking maybe nothing will ever happen. Maybe someone is just going to get away with what they did to him.'

However prosecutors countered that witnesses will testify that Collins admitted to them that he poured gasoline on Robbie as the boy walked through woods near his home.