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Relatives of suspects in Florida teen's burning are shaken

Five boys face charges in the attack that left the victim with second-degree burns over two-thirds of his body.

October 15, 2009|Rafael A. Olmeda and Carlton Smith

DEERFIELD BEACH, FLA. — Relatives of the five boys accused of setting a Florida teenager afire expressed shock Wednesday that anyone, let alone their family members, could be accused of anything so horrific.

"I know my brothers didn't intentionally try to hurt anyone," said Danielle Jarvis, 19, whose brothers, Denver, 15, and Jeremy, 13, were arrested Monday night. "Now they're in a real spot. I'm scared for them."

Investigators say the Jarvis brothers were part of a group that surrounded 15-year-old Michael Brewer outside a Deerfield Beach apartment complex, splashed him with rubbing alcohol and set him ablaze Monday afternoon in the city 38 miles north of Miami.

The other three facing aggravated assault charges are Jesus Mendez, 15, also charged with attempted murder as the boy accused of actually lighting the fire; Steven Shelton, who turns 16 today; and Matthew Bent, 15, accused of directing the attack in retaliation for his arrest Sunday for allegedly trying to steal a bicycle from Brewer's father.

Danielle Jarvis said her brothers were hanging with a bad crowd in a bad neighborhood, but she never thought any of them were capable of the crime that left Brewer hospitalized with second-degree burns over two-thirds of his body.

"My brothers don't go around lighting people on fire," she said. "I don't know what possessed any of those kids to do that."

All five boys were ordered held in a juvenile detention center for 21 days. Their next court appearance is Nov. 2. Prosecutors have not said whether they'll attempt to try them as adults.

The Broward County sheriff's office typically releases the names of anyone charged with a felony, regardless of age.

Shelton's mother, Patricia Hollis, walked out of the Fort Lauderdale courtroom in tears after his first appearance Wednesday morning. She said she didn't want to talk about her son but earlier she told WFOR-TV that her son was not involved.

"I feel so sorry for [Brewer], I really do," Hollis said. "My prayers go out to him and his family."

At Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Wednesday, doctors said Brewer faces a long road to recovery. He remains in intensive care and on a ventilator. "The next step will be an operation to remove burn tissue and replace it with either temporary grafts or to start with grafts from his own body," said Dr. Nicholas Namias, director of the hospital's burn center.

Brewer's condition will worsen before it improves, he said. "The easiest days are the first days."

Brewer's survival and recovery will depend on how well his body responds over the next couple of weeks.

At Deerfield Beach Middle School, Brewer's classmates put up posters asking for donations to help pay his medical expenses. They also took up collections in classrooms.

Jonathan Skalaranko, 13, said rumors were racing through the school Monday after Bent was arrested for trying to take the bicycle. When word of the attack spread Tuesday, Skalaranko said, he couldn't believe it.

"I was just shocked," he said. "I thought they were lying."

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rolmeda@sun-sentinel.com

carlton@southflorida.com

Sun-Sentinel staff writers Sofia Santana, Alexia Campbell and Tonya Alanez, and staff researcher Barbara Hijek, contributed to this report.

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