Family of boy burned in woods speaks out

Boy claims three teens set him on fire
June 14, 2009 9:17:21 PM PDT
The mother of a 9-year-old boy recovering from third-degree burns spoke with ABC7 Chicago in an exclusive interview.The woman says her son was set on fire deliberately in the woods near her home.

Three teens turned themselves into police but were telling authorities a different story.

The incident happened in Hammond, Ind. late last week. The boy remained in the hospital Sunday night.

Cell phone video shows clearly, amid the prayers for a speedy recovery for Joshua Judkins, there is also concern and frustration after the three teens who allegedly set the boy on fire turned themselves in but claimed Joshua ignited himself.

"This could scar him for life. For him to grow up and realize that this happened to him," said Arthur Moore, the victim's grandfather.

Investigators say the boys, ages 13 and 14 told them at the Hammond police station Friday that it was as the group used lighters to set sticks on fire in the woods that Judkins supplied the rubbing alcohol from a first aid kit he found. They say Judkins ignited himself as he stood with the open bottle of rubbing alcohol between his knees.

However, Joshua's father says his son's charred shirt tells a different story.

"His chest area is burned also, not as severe as the back side and right side of his arm. So, how could he set himself on fire?" father Elijah Judkins said.

"He said he was standing in front of a tree, and the boys were behind him. And next, he said they threw alcohol on him, and he said, 'I was on fire,'" said the boy's mother Arkeensha Judkins. "We believe it was a hate crime."

Judkins' parents say the boys, whom Joshua met while visiting his mother, lured him into the woods and attacked him. They maintain Joshua never supplied any rubbing alcohol.

Sunday, police said all the accused teens told the same story and that they were not investigating the incident as racially motivated. Judkins in African-American. All the boys accused are white.

"They say they panicked. Two of them left, but at least one stayed and tried to help this boy to mitigate his injuries," said Lt. Richard Hoyda of Hammond Police Department," said Lt. Richard Hoyda of the Hammond Police Department.

"I don't think this is a prank. This is a hate crime," the victim's grandmother, Sandra Moore, said.

Joshua's parents say they don't know why he was targeted.

In the meantime, it remains unclear if the Indiana third-grader will have to have surgery to help heal the burns that cover about 20 percent of his body.

Investigators were still waiting to get Joshua's official statement Sunday night. There was no word on what charges, if any, would be brought.


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