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Malcolm X's Widow Still Critical After Home Fire

June 03, 1997| From Associated Press

YONKERS, N.Y. — Malcolm X's widow fought for her life Monday after being burned over most of her body in a fire allegedly set by her grandson, described by a family lawyer as "a sad little boy" with a troubled past.

Betty Shabazz was listed in critical condition with third-degree burns over 80% of her body.

"The injuries are catastrophic. . . . She is in a life-threatening situation and will be for a long period of time," said Dr. Bruce Greenstein at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

Shabazz, 63, was sedated, on a ventilator and receiving fluid replacement. Artificial skin grafts may be considered if her vital signs remain stable, but until the wounds are covered with new skin, she is in danger of going into shock, Greenstein said.

Her 12-year-old grandson appeared briefly in court Monday and was held in a juvenile detention center, charged with juvenile delinquency.

Family lawyer Percy Sutton told the judge he needed the consent of the boy's mother, due to arrive from Texas on Monday night, to continue representing him, and the judge agreed to postpone the hearing until today.

The boy wore jeans and a sweatshirt, sitting calmly between Sutton and a psychiatrist who is a family friend.

Sutton said his client "is a sad little boy. He's a child, just a child who's been through a lot of trauma in his life. . . . He loves his grandmother very much and he expressed that love for her. . . . He said how sorry he is."

The boy was arrested a few hours after the fire erupted in his grandmother's apartment in Yonkers, just north of New York City. He was found walking in nearby Mount Vernon, his clothes smelling of gasoline. Gas was used in the fire, and police were investigating whether Shabazz encountered flames in the hallway of her apartment or if she was set afire.

Shabazz witnessed the assassination of her husband at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on Feb. 21, 1965.

After her husband's death, Shabazz went on to raise six daughters and to become a university administrator and spokeswoman for civil rights.

NAACP Chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, called her "one of my dearest friends."

"Betty Shabazz has not been given the amount of credit she deserves in shaping America's civil rights movement. She has been a source of strength and encouragement not only to myself but to millions of Americans," Evers-Williams said in a statement.

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