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Van Nuys, CA — Police have accused 24-year-old Dennis Petillo of pouring a flammable liquid on a homeless woman sleeping on a bus bench and then setting her on fire. He has been booked into jail on suspicion of attempted murder.

Witnesses say that at about 1 a.m. Thursday, Petillo walked out of the 24-hour Walgreens near Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way. He then poured a liquid — possibly rubbing alcohol — on a homeless woman as she slept on a nearby bus bench, then set her ablaze with a match.

“It was like when you pour gasoline on something, like an explosion,” said Erickson Ipina, who followed Petillo after he took off running. “I pulled out my cellphone and called 911, and then he just turned back on me and pulled out a knife,” said Ipina.

The victim’s identity has not been officially released, but friends say she is Flo “Violet” Parker, a woman in her 60s and a fixture of the neighborhood. She was listed in critical condition at a local hospital with burns all over her body. Homeless advocates say that if she recovers, they will take her in to live with them.

Parker reportedly slept on that park bench every night and usually spent a couple afternoons a week at the Central Lutheran Church, where groundskeeper William Gonzalez said Parker mentioned she’d once been a nurse and had two children.

“She never had a bad word for anyone,” said Gonzales, who has known Parker for seven years. “She smiles and says, ‘God bless you’ to you. She never, ever asked for change.”

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LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said they don’t know why Petillo attacked Parker, or if he even knew her. “There was no incident or dispute or clear motivation for this horrific attack. He did not know his victim. It defies explanation,” Albanese said. “The motive is mental illness.”

The bus bench Parker was sleeping on has since been turned into a memorial, with strangers leaving well-wishes, flowers, and candles for Parker. That would be heart-warming if it weren’t for the fact that the only time the public gives a shit about the homeless is when some nut eats off their face, or sets them on fire.

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  • Burns on most of her body…her healing process will be worse then death. People who burn others are a different breed of sick.

  • Sam

    I kinda hope that the guy is seriously mentally ill, because somehow consciously and deliberately setting some poor elderly woman alight seems even worse. Although, if he is just a sick psychopath, it’s easier to justify killing him. Even if just in my fantasies. Poor woman.

  • OutOfBubbleGum

    “… strangers leaving well-wishes, flowers, and candles for Parker.”

    Candles, really? Is this an insult to injury?

  • come_and_see

    Man, I use to believe in capital punishment, but then I watched the video of mob justice in Africa where they put a tire over a man and set him on fire for stealing a potato. Let’s just say he was roaring like a dinosaur because he was in so much pain…

  • newstarshipsmell

    It certainly makes eye-for-an-eye justice very appealing to me.

  • JohnQknowitall

    Among the top 5 things that can happen is being consumed by fire. This guy had to be insane. I can’t understand how a person could do something lke that and be in his right mind, but I am no expert (and don’t profess to be).

  • JohnQknowitall

    I like the part where people will take her in after a serious injury, but apparently didn’t consider it prior to her attack. Guilty conscience?

  • More like her not wanting the help. She seemed pretty self-sufficient.

  • That sounds about right Morbid, I know a lot of homeless people where I live, and most of them prefer to be on the streets

  • Actually, that sounds like just the thing to do to child molesters, come_and_see.

  • tkaz

    It is preferred by many. I never knew it but there’s a homeless “colony” in a forest area in the state I live. The trip is 2 hours from the city and they migrate to the forest each summer. It’s a way of life for some.

  • Justsomebroad

    How terrible.

  • Justsomebroad


  • gail haun

    it takes a special kind of evil/sick to set a human being on fire. I feel for this lady. Recovering from burns is incredibly painful. If most of her body is burned, death may be the most merciful option for her.

  • t0ofly

    when I’m president all criminals will appear on the news and viewers will have the opportunity to text in and vote which punishment the person will receive. better be careful, sickos.

  • OutOfBubbleGum

    OutOfBubbleGum’s, the Pacifist Sam’s, $2,000 cents (inflation) response. Enough physical harm has been done.

    Our accused needs to be placed to rehabilitate. A place like a 50′ x 50′ foot square pin out in the open under the star with a concrete park bench for sleep. The cell will be known as:

    The Human Torch Theme Park for Simple Fun & Lots of Profit

    24/7 year round.

    Feeding the prison via sling shot for $2,000 cents.
    –6:00 am to 7:30 am
    –Noon to 1:30 pm
    — 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
    –10:30 pm to 11:00 pm
    Meals consist of:

    –Bananas Foster
    –Bombe Alaska
    –Crepes Suzette
    –Roasted quail with cognac
    –Flaming fajitas
    –Lobster fra Diavolo

    The Human Marshmallow –
    — All Day (Best Showing After Dark)
    Each fence wall will have a $2,000 cent for 2 minutes flame thrower capable of reaching 30′ feet. Accused will have to run from side to side to avoid flames.

    Hemorrhoidal Pain
    — Al Day
    Just like a gas grill, for a mere $2,000 cents you get to click to igniter to a port-a-potty on the inside of the fence.

    — Too much time on the potty can result in a Human Se-more (Best Effect at Night)

  • I have a friend who “chooses” to be homeless. He’s one of the smartest people I know. Yet secretly, I think he’s a slave to vodka.

  • Patr1ckBateman

    First I am sorry this happened. This woman didn’t deserve to be lit up. I know, you can give me my stating the obvious trophy later.

    I am just shocked at the fact that homeless people are so commonplace that they are such a fixture in the community. Never seen anything like that before. According to a quick google search, there were about 105,000 homeless people in Australia in 2006, of which 16 percent were sleeping rough (not in boarding houses or staying with relatives etc). That’s 16,800 people for the whole country sleeping rough. I know Australia is vastly smaller than the US, but I’m just saying that my chances of seeing someone sleeping out like this are basically nil.

    I’m not trying to say we’re better, please don’t get offended. I’m just saying this is a phenomenon I am deeply unfamiliar with.

  • Heather_Habilatory

    I thought the same thing.

  • Buffettgirl

    Sadly my oldest brother has chosen this way of life. I’m OK with it if it makes him happy, but it’s hell on earth for Mom…

  • Eliza Berntsen

    Why did he choose to live like that?

  • Eliza Berntsen

    I have seen people- young men mostly- literally piss or throw stuff at sleeping homeless people. Once I saw one rough sleeping guy get beaten up by some animals, just for fun. The poor guy barely survived. By the time the police arrived the attackers had run off. No-one helped, they just passed by as if nothing was happening before their own eyes. I will never be able to comprehend the cruelty that lives in some people, or how they can function in day to day lives.

  • Evangelos

    Thank you Morbid, for that last sentence and the fucked up truth it contains. There exists a disturbing trend in this country as of late (past 20-25yrs?). Teens & young adults who think it’s funny to kill, maim, and persecute people they see as less than human (even though it is THEY who are less than Human).

    A prime example happened when I was living in Tucson almost a decade ago. My Grandmother and I knew this awesome Lady who went by the name of Sandy and her little dog Sunshine. She had a few mental problems (schizophrenia) but always had a huge smile on her face when she would hangout around the downtown bus depot or the goodwill on 4th Ave. My Grandmother loved talking to her since they shared a love of little ankle biters, and we’d usually would get extra from DQ or Brooklyn Pizza to give to her (and bones for her little ratdog). Always so very kind and always tried to refuse any money we’d give her, especially around summertime since AZ is two degrees cooler than Satan’s asshole.
    One year I was visiting and took my Grandmother to the Utility buildings for bills and we decided to make a day out of it (second hand shopping and just talking etc). Now I don’t remember what reminded me to ask if my Grandmother had seen her lately, but I did. I was told that a group of asshole cholos stole her little dog and she had reported them to the cops. They killed her little dog before they gave it back and that sent her off into the deep end. Apparently she was TONS more cooperative with police after that, trying to catch said people. Except one day she went missing and no one had seen her for awhile. Turns out they had killed her and dumped her in the drainage tunnels that run under the city. Her death was classified as “Accidental” and the police could care less. I never could find a damn thing in any papers or the net and don’t look anymore as it feeds my rage.

    I was so angry I swore if I EVER see anything like this not only will I try and stop it, but I may have to go jail for letting my emotions get the best of me. Children, the Elderly, the Mentally/physically impaired, and Animals… Anyone who abuses these is not deserving of Life or Limbs in my book and that will NEVER change. The point I was shooting for was that this isn’t a new occurrence, it’s just no longer being swept under the rug. If you agree with me then donate a measly $5 a month to homeless advocacy groups, or volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food drive. So very sorry for the novel.

  • Wolf_of_Mars

    That’s called “Necklacing.” They also usually pour gasoline inside of the tire before lighting up the trussed-up offender.

  • wastintime

    Lock this fucker up in a padded cell and never let him out.

  • Andyman

    My office is in a four story office building with an attached parking deck for our employees. For the past year or so a homeless guy has been living there. He just walks seemingly aimlessly around town all day and then comes to sleep in our deck when he gets tired. He keeps to himself mostly and doesn’t harm anyone nor does he seem to bother anyone. While I can’t understand how someone would choose this way of life, how or why someone would think doing this to someone like that who isn’t bothering anyone is exceedingly disturbing to me. How sad for this person. Not all homeless people expect things from those of us who have more.

  • lespacino

    By comparison, in my (U.S.) city alone, there are 1150+ homeless people- 136 of whom are children. And, although we do have shelters/services, there are simply not enough beds to go around, so it is first come first serve for those that exist. What many don’t know is that women with male children are in a hell of a situation if they are homeless. Women’s shelters won’t allow them in once their male child reaches a certain age due to “safety” concerns regarding other females in the facilities. So, women with older male children have to choose between sleeping outside, or sleeping in a facility that separates based on sex, which means she has to send her young male child to sleep in a room full of adult men, some of whom are convicts who can’t find housing based on their criminal history/lack of family support. I can’t imagine being a mother in that situation.

  • techsupp0rt

    ?Welcome to Hobo Zoooo!?
    ?Welcome to Hobo Zoooo!?
    ?We’ve got hot dogs,
    ?And trash fires,
    ?You can feed them if you chooooose
    ?Welcome to Hohohobo Zoo!
    (courtesy: Tom Goes to the Mayor)

  • OlderWoman

    A savage racist black on white crime. Press makes excuses for it. If it were a white who did this to a black person, press would be calling it a hate crime. Double standards.

  • OlderWoman

    This was a racist attack.

  • OlderWoman

    Hang him.

  • Alice89

    That’s why abusive spouses need to be kicked out of the house, not the battered wife. And where are the family/friends of these women who allow her to sleep in a shelter that won’t allow pets/male children?

  • Kat

    In one of the news articles I read about this it mentioned that a homeless guy had also been set on fire a week or two before this in the same area. Who wants to bet it is the same person who has some kind of issue with the homeless? I’ll try and find the article when I get home or tomorrow to link for you, right now I have to go to work.

  • lespacino

    Yeah, but who is actually going to enforce that? I mean, ideally, she would stay and he would leave, but in these situations, it is usually a matter of life or death. So, if she stays, there is really nothing to stop him from coming back and killing her when she’s alone. Happens all the time. In my city, there is 1 facility that allows adolescent/teen males with their moms, but it can only accommodate 6 families, so it is pretty much impossible to get into. In my fantasy world, they would lock up the abuser until trial- no bail, no exception- and then she could stay in the home. The legal system doesn’t work that way, though.

    As for family/friends of the abused, many don’t have any left. One of the fundamental characteristics of abuse is alienation/isolation from loved ones. Usually, abusers don’t start physical abuse until after they have forced or caused the separation of the spouse from any support system.

  • Alice89

    Well maybe they should lock up the bastards – that would give the woman enough time to get locks and phone numbers changed, gun licence and purchase, security cameras installed etc.
    As for family and friends of the victims – I can’t believe family and friends would ignore or brush away abuse. My family would believe me over them in any case. If I told my mum or my best friend that something was wrong, she would come after the fucker herself with a cricket bat.
    Although the cowards who would do this would stay away from me as I’m seen to be “mouthy” and “trouble” because I’m a young woman who can and will stand up for herself, I want to see change for women who are the victims of DV and I want to see the perps duly punished.

  • Buffettgirl

    The sad cycle of paranoid schizophrenia coupled with what is more than likely an allergy to the marijuana he self-medicates with and refuses to give up. He is one of those “A Beautiful Mind” kind of geniuses that literally can not cope with the amount of information his brain processes.

  • alphatroll

    Please, Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, let’s not degrade mental illness by associating it with simple assholes like this.

  • alphatroll

    Actually, a very large (some would say the most important) part of the reason for a criminal justice system is to prevent mob justice and vigilantism. The idea is that if the system does its job right, people won’t feel like they have to resort to awful stuff like this.

  • GeeMoeNettie

    YES! blaze di fire mek we bun dem!!

  • GeeMoeNettie

    Did you help?

  • GeeMoeNettie

    He can surely be in his right mind. Some people are just evil.

  • Eliza Berntsen

    I called the police and the ambulance and remained there until they arrived to give a statement, etc. There really wasn’t much else that I could do, without putting myself in some serious danger.