FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The sister of a homeless man who nearly died after being set on fire says is ecstatic that Fort Lauderdale Police have tracked down and arrested the suspect in this case.
Fifty-eight-year-old John Gibbons is now charged with attempted murder and is being held without bond.
“We are elated,” said Kathy Gordon, whose 51-year-old brother William Stouffer was set on fire more than three weeks ago. “It is a good day in South Florida. Police are doing their job and catching the bad guys.”Gordon was at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital where she and her mother were visiting Stouffer. He’s been in the hospital for three weeks and three days.
Gordon credited the work of Fort Lauderdale Police and Chuck Morrow, a veteran detective from the department’s fugitive unit who is also a member of the F.B.I. fugitive task force.
Morrow spent more than three weeks on the case in a search that took police to Fort Lauderdale, Dave, North Lauderdale and Tamarac as well as Lauderhill.
Morrow told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that Gibbons had been living in a tent in the woods and had changed his appearance.
“When we found him, he was wearing glasses, a visor, a hoodie sweatshirt,” said Morrow. “He admitted he knew that he was wanted.”
“Thank God for the family we found him,” said Morrow. “I am so glad we picked him up.”
Morrow said, “When I spotted Gibbons near the cooperative feeding station, I confronted him and told him that I knew who he was. I took him into custody at 9:19 this morning.”
“Chuck Morrow checked everywhere for this suspect,” said Gordon. “I can’t believe what great old fashioned work that he did pounding the pavements and finding this guy.”
“It’s hard to imagine that anyone can do this to someone,” said Gordon, “setting a person on fire. It is unbelievable and the cruelest act for a human being. Fifty percent of my brother’s body had 3rd degree burns from his head to his knees. Doctors thought he might not live.”
Stouffer is in the intensive care unit and is responsive and Gordon says she has high hopes. Her brother will be at the hospital for at least three more months. She says he is still in critical condition.
It’s not known why he was set on fire. Morrow told D’Oench the two men were “associates” and knew each other.
“I have confidence that my brother will pull through,” said Gordon. “And when he does, I will not take my eyes off of him.