The mother of Michael Brewer, the teen who was brutally burned in an attack, testified during opening statements on Tuesday in the trial of the alleged ringleader.
Matthew Aaron Bent, 17, is charged with second-degree attempted murder in the Oct. 12, 2009 attack at a Deerfield Beach apartment complex. He will be tried as an adult and faces up to 30 years in prison.
A panel of six jurors and alternates was finalized Monday to hear the case against Bent, who has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say there was a dispute between the boys, and Bent claimed Brewer owed him money.
Bent directed one of the other teens, Denver Jarvis, to pour rubbing alcohol on Brewer, before another classmate, Jesus Mendez, pulled out a lighter and sparked a blaze that set Brewer on fire, prosecutors said.
Brewer, 15 at the time of the attack, jumped into the apartment complex's pool to put out the flames. He was burned on over 60 percent of his body and spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
In February, Mendez, now 18, pleaded no contest to a charge of attempted second-degree murder and was sentenced to 11 years in prison, followed by 19 years of probation. Jarvis, 17, also pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 8 years in prison with a probation term of 22 years. Bent rejected a plea deal to take his chances in court.
Both Mendez and Jarvis are expected to testify against Bent. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
"My daughter answers the phone. It's BSO. They tell me that Michael had been set on fire and they were going to Traumahawk him to the hospital," Valerie Brewer said.
She was choking back sobs as she recounted the moments she was told about the attack.
"I'm standing in the front yard and Traumahawk flew over my head," she said.
She described how she and her husband drover to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital and found their son on a gurney "covered in blisters."
"He said, 'I'm sorry Mom.' and I said 'You have nothing to be sorry for'," she said, through tears.
Michael Brewer spent five months in the hospital undergoing surgeries, skin grafts and grueling therapy sessions. Valerie Brewer told the jury her son has scars on 65 percent of his body and must still go through physical therapy and has lingering emotional issues.
"The night terrors that we go through, he wakes up screaming that he's still on fire," she said.
During opening statements, prosecutor Maria Schneider said Bent was the ringleader who got the other teen to participate. Schneider said that Bent told Jarvis he would give him $5 to pour rubbing alcohol on
Brewer. And while Jarvis poured alcohol on the teen, Mendez flicked a lighter and set Brewer ablaze.
Bent's attorney has said his client never told Jarvis to pour the alcohol on Brewer and was just a witness to the attack.
"The evidence will show there was no plan or scheme here. This happened in about 10 minutes," Thurston said. "They didn't even know Michael Brewer was going to be there. How do you plan or orchestrate if you don't even know he's going to be there?"