Man to be tried as adult for setting 8-year-old on fire; victim died 13 years later

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by KHOU.com staff

KHOU 11 News Houston

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 6 at 6:43 PM

MONTGOMERY COUNTY-- A judge has decided that the Texas man who set an 8-year-old boy on fire will be tried as an adult in the murder case. Robbie Middleton died in 2011, 13 years after he was doused in gasoline and set ablaze to cover an alleged sex assault.

"We very badly want justice," said Colleen Middleton, the victim's mother. "We don't like our child to be treated like he's worthless and that's exactly how we felt."

Don Collins was 13 when he allegedly committed the horrific crime on Middleton's eighth birthday in 1998. 

Ninety-nine percent of his body was burned, but Robbie survived the attack. After years of skin grafts and other surgeries, he died of skin cancer caused by the severe burns.

“I had never seen someone so burned, but still alive,” said one of the paramedics who treated Middleton that day.

Wednesday was the first time Middleton's family had been in the same courtroom as the accused killer. Collins took the stand, but refused to testify based on advice from his attorney.

"I see him and I think he ruined his life," said Colleen Middleton. "That is sad because he was so young."

Prosecutors said new evidence surfaced shortly after Robbie’s death and pushed for the murder charges. The victim said that Collins burned him to keep him quiet after sexually assaulting him two weeks prior to the attack.

“It was always Don,” said Robbie’s mother. “No doubt in his mind, it was always, Don. Until the day he died.”

Collins’ attorney argued that he should not be tried as an adult because he was so young when the crime was committed.

“The state’s investigation was thorough then,” said attorney E. Tay Bond. “They did not have enough evidence then, and they don’t have enough to go forward now.”

After Judge Kathleen Hamilton decided Collins would stand trial as an adult, Robbie's relieved mother finally had a reason to smile.

"I'm happy, we're ecstatic that she looked at Robert's deposition and she said that she believed that it was credible and true," Middleton said.  "I hope they put Mr. Collins on the stand, I want to hear what he has to say.  I've been waiting all this time."

If convicted, Collins could face up to 99 years in prison.

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