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Five Charged With Setting Teen on Fire

Five Florida teenagers have been charged for intentionally setting a 15-year-boy on fire, leaving him hospitalized with burns over 65 percent of his body, reports CBS station WFOR in Miami.

Prosecutors filed attempted murder charges against 15-year-old Jesus Mendez Tuesday afternoon; another teen was charged with aggravated battery. Three other teens had already been charged with aggravated battery in the case.

CBS is not identifying those teens at this time. All five have been charged as juveniles. Four of the suspects are 15 years and one is 13.

The teens are accused of dousing 15-year-old Michael Brewer with rubbing alcohol Monday afternoon and setting him on fire as he sat by the pool at the Lime Tree Village apartments in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

It's "one of the more horrific crimes I have been associated with since I've been with BSO. It's just a horrible, horrible case," said Sgt. Steve Feeley of the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Brewer's mother, Valerie, told WFOR correspondent Carey Codd, "We just don't understand why anyone would do this."

A witness said she saw a group of boys running in the complex so she went outside to investigate.

"Somebody threw something at (Michael)," Providencia Maldonado said. "I don't know if it was gas or alcohol or something and the next thing you know the kid is on fire."

A neighbor, hearing the young man's screams for help, put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, said Brewer's sister, Malissa Durkee.

The teen then ripped off his shirt and jumped into the pool.

Neighbor Jennifer Nielsen, a former lifeguard, heard Michael's screams and ran outside to help. She said she comforted Michael as he screamed in agony.

Nielsen said Brewer's top layer of skin was peeling off; his eyebrows were gone, as was the hair on the right side of his head. Family members said most of his hair, including his eyelashes, had been burned off.

"I'm still shaken up," Neilsen told WFOR. "But I'm happy I was there for that child. I just want that child to be OK."

Brewer was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The pain of the burns was so intense that he had to be placed in a medically-induced coma.

According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, one of the juvenile suspects - the alleged ringleader - was owed money by Brewer for a video game. The ringleader allegedly stole Brewer's father's bike as payment, but was caught on Sunday.

Officers arrested the ringleader on Sunday, but he was later released into his parent's custody. On Monday, the five suspects allegedly surrounded Brewer when the ringleader said, "pour it on him, pour it on him," according to Sgt. Feeley.

One of the suspects allegedly poured alcohol on Brewer, and then Mendez allegedly used a lighter to set Brewer on fire, according to the Broward police. The lighter was found by Broward Sheriff's deputies at the scene of the crime.

Monday night, the suspects were in custody and at least two of them were laughing about the burning of Brewer. Mendez showed remorse for the crime, according to Sgt. Feeley. BSO deputies were able to find the suspects with the help of witnesses, who said they were afraid of the ringleader.

According to BSO, all five of the suspects have had run-ins with the law before. Some of the suspects have reportedly confessed to the crime, according to Sgt. Feeley.

"The victim will be in hospital for five months. He has second degree burns over 80 percent of body. He's in for a long, long recovery," said Sheriff Al Lamberti. "The violence in our schools need to stop. I don't know what the answer is. As parents and leaders we need to do a better job teaching our kids right from wrong."

Investigators also said they believe torching the teen was a well-planned attack and not something that just happened by chance.

Even police are shocked by this case.

"When you think you've seen it all and you think people can't be any more cruel, you come up with this," BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal told WFOR correspondent Ted Scouten.

Durkee said her brother, who loves skateboarding and video games, is a good kid who needs his family more than ever.

"I believe he will be able to make it if everybody just prays for him," Durkee said.