Years of domestic abuse drove an Omaha woman to set her boyfriend on fire while her four children were in the house, friends of the women say.
Friends and family of the couple outlined a violent three-year relationship.
Danny Robinson, who described himself as the couple's friend, said Beard had long been physically abused by Westbrook. The night before the blaze she was "terrified," he said.
"I think she wasn't in the right frame of mind that night because of the trauma she suffered."
Prosecutors said surveillance cameras captured Beard purchasing two 1-gallon gas containers at a gas station a half-hour before the 4:30 a.m. fire at the home she shared with Westbrook at 13519 Atwood Ave.
Robinson said he thinks Beard's two oldest children confessed to starting the fire because "they saw how much their mom had suffered."
Westbrook suffered burns to his face, chest and arms and likely will be hospitalized for three months
, his sister Julrene Abercrombie said in a phone interview from her home in Chicago.
"It's going to be a really long, long road for him," she said.
Abercrombie said Beard often was jealous and suspicious of Westbrook, accusing him of showing romantic interest in other women.
Westrook often was pleasant and nice, said Robinson, who called Westbrook as a friend.
"He was a nice guy on one side, but he could be so cruel to (Beard)," Robinson said. "It was bizarre."
Robinson said he once had to intervene when he witnessed Westbrook assaulting Beard in a car in front of a liquor store.
Beard's friend Shamika Brown described getting phone calls from a frightened Beard in the middle of the night.
"I would see the bruises on her face," Brown said of Beard.
One of Beard's family members said he saw Westbrook hit Beard with her own shoe on a public corner.
Westbrook does not have any violent criminal charges on his record. Robinson said Westbrook threatened to kill Beard if she went to police.