Man charged with attempted murder in torching of homeless woman

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Prosecutors on Monday charged a man suspected of setting a homeless woman on fire in Van Nuys with attempted murder.

Dennis Petillo, 24, of Van Nuys is accused of dousing the homeless woman with rubbing alcohol while she slept on a bus bench and setting her ablaze early Thursday near Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way.

He is also charged with aggravated mayhem, said the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in a statement. Prosecutors are requesting that Petillo’s bail be set at $1 million.

While police have not released the victim’s name, area residents said she is Flo Parker, a familiar presence in the area. The 67-year-old, 5-foot-tall woman with dirty blond hair and a time-worn face was also known as Violet.


Authorities believe Petillo is mentally ill and said there appeared to be no motive in the “horrific” attack that left the woman hospitalized Monday in critical but stable condition.

If convicted, Petillo faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors said. He was expected to be arraigned Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court in Van Nuys.

Since 2008, he has pleaded guilty twice to charges related to vehicle theft. The second time, he was sentenced to two years in prison.


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-- Adolfo Flores