Robbie Middleton was just eight years old when he was tied to a tree, doused with gasoline, and set on fire by a 13-year-old neighbor in Splendora, Texas. Despite surviving the attack, Robbie suffered burns over 99% of his body and endured years of medical treatment before he passed away at the age of 20 from cancer caused by his burns.
Don Collins, the attacker, was initially released due to lack of evidence, but he was later found guilty of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Who was Robbie Middleton
Robbie was born on April 30, 1991, in Humble, Texas, and was the youngest of three children. He grew up in Splendora, a small town about 35 miles northeast of Houston. Robbie was known for his love of fishing, camping, and spending time outdoors with his family and friends. He was described as a happy and outgoing child who loved to make people laugh.
Who was Don Collins?
Don Collins was a neighbor of the Middleton family who lived in the same trailer park as Robbie. He was 13 years old at the time of the attack and had a criminal history that included charges of burglary, theft, and assault. Collins was known to have a volatile temper and had been involved in multiple altercations with other residents of the trailer park.
Why did Don Collins harm Robbie?
The motive for the attack on Robbie is unclear, but it is believed that Collins had a grudge against the Middleton family. In a deposition given by Middleton before his death, he stated that Collins had sexually assaulted him two weeks prior to the attack. Middleton also alleged that Collins had threatened to kill him and his family if he ever told anyone about the assault. It is possible that Collins attacked Middleton to prevent him from coming forward about the sexual assault.
The Horrific Attack
On June 28, 1998, Robbie was walking through the woods near his home in Splendora, Texas when he was attacked by Collins. Collins poured gasoline on Robbie, set him on fire, and then left him to die. Robbie managed to crawl out of the woods and find help, but he was severely burned and traumatized.
Robbie, on the other hand, with incredible maturity, raised money for other burn victims, encouraged the girls on his ward, and overcame every expectation to the amazement of all.
Robbie, however, was later diagnosed with skin cancer, which he attributed to the skin grafts he had received. He decided that it was time for the truth to be known to protect others, and he gave a videotaped deposition from his hospital bed, revealing that he was raped by Collins in the same woods where he was burned. The motive behind the attack was clear to everyone at this stage: Collins wanted to silence Robbie.
Investigation and Trial
Collins was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. However, he was never charged with murder as Robbie was still alive. In 2011, Robbie came forward and accused Collins of sexually assaulting him two weeks before the attack. This new evidence prompted a grand jury to indict Collins for murder.
In 2014, Collins was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, this was not enough justice for Robbie’s family who had been seeking justice for years. They filed a civil lawsuit against Collins and his family, accusing them of being responsible for the attack. The lawsuit was settled in 2017, with Collins and his family agreeing to pay $150 million in damages to Robbie’s family.
Legacy of Robbie Middleton
Robbie’s story has brought attention to the issue of hate crimes and the need for stronger laws to protect victims. Robbie’s Law, which was passed in 2011, requires that offenders who commit crimes against children under the age of 14 will face automatic certification as adults. This law was named after Robbie and is a legacy of his tragic story.
Robbie’s family has also established the Robbie Middleton Foundation, which aims to help children who have suffered from burn injuries and to prevent future incidents of burn violence.
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