They shook on it.
The way Matthew Bent saw it, Michael Brewer owed him $40 for a video game, and Brewer had just agreed he would pay up. They shook hands. Brewer, who had stayed home from school out of fear of what would happen if he ran into Bent, started to walk away.
But before he got far, he heard Bent's voice again. "Wait, wait, wait. Come back here," Bent said, according to an eyewitness account. Then Bent looked at his friend Denver Jarvis, who held a container of rubbing alcohol. "Pour it on him," Bent said, the same witness told detectives.
Previously unreleased details about the fiery attack on Brewer, 15, are contained in police summaries of three witness accounts that prosecutors sent to defense lawyers in the Deerfield Beach burning case. The Sun Sentinel reviewed some of those documents last week.
They show that Brewer was first surrounded by nine teenagers in the parking lot at the Lime Tree Village apartment complex on Oct. 12, but that setting Brewer on fire was not discussed among them before it happened. Brewer, who suffered second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body, has spent the past two months recovering at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Burn Center in Miami.
The Sun Sentinel did not review a statement given to detectives by the victim or by Jesus Mendez, 16, who is accused of setting the fire moments after Jarvis, 15, allegedly poured the alcohol on Brewer. Mendez, Jarvis and Bent, 15, have all been charged as adults with second-degree attempted murder.
Two others at the scene, including Jarvis' younger brother, were originally arrested but not charged with crimes.
Until now, investigators have only hinted at the presence of still others at the scene. The records sent to defense lawyers show that four other teenagers were part of the group that surrounded Brewer. Three stayed behind and spoke to detectives investigating the burning, but their initial accounts wildly contradicted one another. The Sun Sentinel is not identifying the four teens because of their age.
Two of them, brothers, first denied being at the scene. Later they told detectives they were afraid of snitching on Bent after seeing what happened to Brewer.
Bent was still angry at Brewer over an incident the day before, the witnesses told detectives. During that incident, Bent tried to collect his $40 at Brewer's house. "If you don't give me my money, bad things are gonna happen," he said, according to a summary of one of the teens' accounts.
When Brewer didn't have the money, Bent tried to steal a custom bicycle belonging to Brewer's father, investigators have said. That touched off a confrontation involving Brewer's sister and father, and ended in Bent's arrest.
The three witnesses described the attack on Brewer as more a crime of opportunity than a conspiracy to kill him. The teenagers met up on the eastern side of the Lime Tree Village apartments, where they spotted a container of rubbing alcohol against a wall along Southeast Sixth Avenue. At the time, they didn't even know Brewer was nearby, according to the statements.
Bent was still fuming about his arrest, demanding to know whether any of his other friends "snitched" about the bicycle, the witnesses told detectives.
Then they spotted Brewer.
"Why'd you get me locked up, man?" Bent said, one of the witnesses told detectives. Brewer, according to one account, convinced Bent that he tried to talk his family out of calling 911, and the confrontation was over. But when Brewer jumped a fence into Lime Tree, the others followed him. Bent circled on his bike to cut Brewer off near the southern entrance, about 100 yards from the pool.
There, he demanded his money again. "You gotta pay me my money and I won't do nothing to you," one witness quoted him as saying.
Brewer agreed. The two shook hands, though accounts varied as to when. Finally, Bent told Jarvis to pour the alcohol on him.
A moment later, according to investigators, Mendez flicked the lighter, igniting the alcohol and burning his own arm in the process.
Bent's lawyer, Gordon Weekes, disputed the documents' portayal of Bent as a ringleader, noting that detectives interviewed the witnesses several times before their stories agreed with each other enough to condemn his client.
"There was significant injury to Brewer and pain to him and his family," Weekes said. Detectives "devised a theory and arranged the facts to fit that theory" instead of letting the evidence speak for itself, he said.
Lead prosecutor Maria Schneider did not confirm comments attributed to the defendants by the three witnesses. Such comments are typically redacted before documents are provided to the news media or the public. The State Attorney's Office has not released the documents summarizing the witness accounts.
Schneider did confirm that the original group surrounding Brewer consisted of more than the five teenagers originally charged.
The lawyer for Denver Jarvis could not be reached for comment Friday, despite a call to her office and an e-mail.
Attorneys for Mendez have routinely declined to comment on the case.
Brewer's family also declined to comment on the documents.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times