A Missouri teenager accused of pouring gasoline on a 13-year-old, setting him on fire and laughing as he burned, has been charged with first-degree assault.
Joseph D. Gardner, 17, of St. Joseph, had bullied the child in the past and threatened to kill him and his family if he told anyone, according to a probable cause statement from the Andrew County Sheriff's department. On April 15, Gardner threatened to hit the boy in the face if he did not let him set him on fire, the statement said.
The 13-year-old had first- and second-degree burns on his face and right arm, along with burns in his nose and throat "from inhaling the flames," the statement said.
Gardner was charged Monday in Andrew County court. Court records did not list a lawyer for him. He was being held Tuesday on $150,000 bond and has asked for a public defender. Messages left at possible phone numbers for Gardner weren't immediately returned.
The St. Joseph News-Press reported that Gardner tried to explain his actions during a Monday court appearance and was advised that anything he said could be used against him. Associate Circuit Judge Mike Ordnung repeatedly ordered him to be quiet.
The burned child was taken to the University of Kansas Hospital burn center in Kansas City, Kan. His name and details of his condition haven't been released, but the sheriff's department interviewed him at his home a few days after the incident in Helena.
Authorities declined to provide details on the relationship between Gardner and the child.
Gardner's next court appearance is a case review scheduled for May 22.
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