A Texas man who sexually abused an 8-year-old boy and set him on fire was convicted more than 16 years after the incident.
Don Collins, 29, was convicted in the murder of Robbie Middleton on Feb. 9, Houston Chronicle reports.
Collins was 13 years old on June 28, 1998, when he abducted Middleton on his eighth birthday, tied him to a tree, doused him in gasoline and then set him on fire.
Middleton, who suffered burns on 99 percent of his body and underwent more than 150 surgical procedures, named Collins as his attacker on his deathbed, adding that the teen had sexually abused him two weeks before the attack, which happened in Splendora, Texas.
Middleton died in 2011 of a rare skin cancer that was a direct result from the burns he suffered that day. In March, prosecutors were able to charge Middleton with murder as an adult thanks to a law that wasn’t enacted at the time.
The 16-year-long legal battle was almost a lost cause because prosecutors had initially dropped the charges against Collins because of scant evidence.
Jurors watched Middleton’s taped deposition a week ago where he named Collins as his attacker and prosecutors argued that the video proves Collins is guilty. Jurors deliberated for more than three hours after hearing from more than 40 witnesses, KPRC reports.
“It was relative evidence where the complainant, Robert Middleton, identified the perpetrator of this act,” Rob Freyer, Montgomery County District Attorney, told KPRC.
Freyer told ABC 13, “It makes me sick having to look at (Collins). He had the brain of a walnut.”
The victim’s mother, Colleen Middleton, said it hasn't quite sunk in yet and she hopes that Collins gets the maximum punishment for his crime.
“I hope he gets 40 years,” Middleton said. “That’s the most he can get.”
Collins is not eligible for the death penalty as he was a minor at the time of the attack.
The jury will decide the punishment for Collins on Feb. 16.