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Ford City teenager set on fire

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005

FORD CITY -- A neighbor in the Southern Apartments complex said she heard 14-year-old Eric Booher screaming.

Police said the boy had been set on fire by another 14-year-old boy.

"I was in the house, and we had the door open," neighbor Julie Freiters told a WTAE television reporter. "Then we heard screaming. It was the voice of Eric Booher.

"I walked over into Eric's house, and they had him in the shower at that point. His shirt is still smoldering on the floor, and he's just screaming. And the skin is just peeling off his body," Freiters said.

A hearing will likely be held today or Wednesday to determine whether the 14-year-old boy charged with setting Booher on fire will remain in a juvenile detention facility in Ebensburg.

David Hartman, head of Armstrong County's probation office, said juvenile cases in which the suspect has been taken to a detention facility must come before the court within 72 hours.

The juvenile was remanded to the facility in Cambria County shortly after he was taken into custody for allegedly dousing Booher in rubbing alcohol, then setting him on fire around 9 p.m. Saturday. Juveniles from Armstrong County who need to be placed in detention are generally taken to the Ebensburg facility because Armstrong has no such facility of its own.

Ford City police Chief Jan Lysakowski said Monday that the victim was in stable condition in West Penn Hospital's burn unit in Pittsburgh with second- and third-degree burns on his face, neck, chest and arms. He had been airlifted by helicopter to the hospital.

Freiters said Booher had burns to the neck, chest, stomach, arms, sides and the front of his legs.

The chief said there were at least four juveniles at the apartment where the incident occurred, adding that he was uncertain whether any adults were present. He said police did not plan to charge anyone else in the case.

"All of the witnesses have given us solid statements toward the (suspect)," Lysakowski said. The juveniles were all around the same age as the victim and the suspect, he said.

The police chief said earlier that witnesses had told investigators that the suspect had been "picking" on the victim at the time of the incident.

When police arrived at the scene, the chief said, the victim was in a tub with the water running. His burned clothing was in the same room, Lysakowski said.

The suspect faces felony charges of arson and aggravated assault and misdemeanor charges of simple assault and reckless endangerment, according to police.

If a determination is made by the court to keep the juvenile in a detention facility, Hartman said, the juvenile petition, similar to an indictment for adults, must be heard by the court within 10 days.

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