Attempted Murder Charge in Case of Sleeping Woman Set on Fire

The 67-year-old victim was sleeping on a Van Nuys bus bench Dec. 27 when an attacker poured an accelerant on her before striking a match

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Monday, Dec 31, 2012  |  Updated 11:34 AM PDT
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Suspect Who Allegedly Set Homeless Woman on Fire ID'd

The bench on which a woman was sleeping Dec. 27 when she was set on fire.

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Suspect Who Allegedly Set Homeless Woman on Fire ID'd

A 67-year-old homeless woman known only as Violet was asleep on a bus bench in Van Nuys when a man poured alcohol on her and lit a match. She was listed in critical condition. If she recovers, homeless advocates say they will take in her to live with them. Angie Crouch reports from Van Nuys for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 27, 2012.
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A 24-year-old man was charged Monday in the case of a woman who was set on fire as she slept on a Van Nuys bus stop bench.

Dennis Petillo, of Van Nuys, is scheduled for arraignment Monday afternoon. He faces an attempted murder charge in the Dec. 27 attack near Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way.

He also faces an aggravated mayhem charge. Aggravated mayhem involves the nature of a crime, usually with regard to malicious disfigurement or disabling of a victim.

Witnesses told police that a man threw some type of liquid -- later identified by investigators as an accelerant -- on the homeless woman, then lit a match. The attacker was chased by a witness, who called 911.

"It was like when you pour gasoline on something -- like an explosion," said witness Erickson Ipina, who added that he often saw the homeless woman in the neighborhood.

The 67-year-old victim is hospitalized in critical, but stable, condition.

After the attack, Ipina followed the man. Police credited Ipina with helping to catch the suspect

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