VAN NUYS - A 24-year-old Van Nuys man accused of setting a homeless woman on fire as she slept on a bus bench was charged today with attempted murder and aggravated mayhem.
Dennis Petillo was scheduled to be arraigned sometime today at the Van Nuys Courthouse. He allegedly set fire to the 67-year-old woman around 1 a.m. Thursday at Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way. | » POLICE NEWS
According to police and prosecutors, Petillo poured a flammable liquid on the woman, identified by some witnesses only as Violet, and set her on fire while she was sleeping.
Witnesses said Petillo went into a Walgreens store at the intersection and purchased what may have been rubbing alcohol, then walked out of the store and doused the woman with it.
"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 called 911, then followed the man until police arrived and arrested the suspect.
An area resident told ABC7 the woman had essentially been living on the bus bench for years.
The woman remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Petillo faces up to life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.