VAN NUYS (CNS) - A suspect allegedly set fire to a 67-year-old homeless woman as she slept on a bus bench early today, leaving her fighting for her life and resulting in his arrest on suspicion of attempted murder.
Dennis Petillo, 24, is accused of setting the woman ablaze after dousing her with a flammable liquid while she was asleep on a bench outside a Walgreens store at the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way around 1 a.m.
The victim was listed in critical condition at a local hospital with burns all over her body, said Lt. Damian Gutierrez of the Los Angeles Police Department's Van Nuys Station.
A witness said the suspect went into the store and purchased what's believed to be rubbing alcohol, which he allegedly poured over the woman, then set her on fire.
"He just poured it all over the old lady, then he threw a match on her, and then started running," said eyewitness Erickson Pina, who said the suspect also threatened him with a knife. Pina told a camera crew that he phoned 911, then followed the man until police arrived and arrested the suspect.
The victim's identity was not immediately released by police, but people in the neighborhood know her as Violet and said she is a regular at a local church.
`We've tried to get her off the bench for years, and she absolutely refuses. It was her home." neighbor Robert Wyneken told ABC7. "The people around here know her, and admire her, and love her."