Man to Be Tried for Murder After Victim Dies 13 Years Later

Allegedly set boy on fire when he was 13, but will be tried as adult

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 6, 2014 1:52 PM CST

(Newser) – Don Willburn Collins was 13 when he allegedly attacked 8-year-old Robert Middleton in Texas in 1998, dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire. Middleton, who suffered burns across 99% of his body, went through years of physical therapy and ultimately died in 2011 from skin cancer blamed on the burns—and now Collins will be tried for his murder. Collins was arrested after the crime but released after several months because prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to pursue the case, the AP reports. But just before his death, Middleton gave a videotaped deposition, accusing Collins for the first time of sexually assaulting him two weeks prior to the attack. That deposition caused the case to be reopened.

Collins, now 28, was charged with murder last year, but in order for the case to proceed to trial, prosecutors needed to transfer it from juvenile to adult court. The judge agreed today to do just that, meaning Collins will be tried as an adult. During a three-day hearing on the matter this week, several witnesses testified that Collins had confessed to attacking Middleton. Another victim also testified against Collins—he was also 8 when Collins sexually assaulted him in 2001, Your Houston News reports. Collins was convicted in that case, and has been behind bars for that offense as well as for failing to register as a sex offender.

Don Willburn Collins waits to be placed into the custody of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office following a hearing in Conroe, Texas.   (AP Photo/ The Courier, Jason Fochtman)
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