FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A jury has been selected in the high profile burning case of South Florida teenager Michael Brewer and opening statements will begin Tuesday morning.
Matthew Bent, 18, is accused of planning the attack that left the Deerfield Beach teen fighting for his life with burns over two-thirds of his body nearly three years ago.
Clutching his mother’s hand in court Monday, Michael Brewer sat just feet away from the man prosecutors say changed his life forever.
“I’m exhausted. It’s been a long two and a half years,” Valerie Brewer, Michael’s mother said.
Bent is accused of planning the attack on Brewer over a bad debt, in a case that shocked and horrified the South Florida community and the world.
It was back in October 2009 that then 15-year-old Michael Brewer was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire. Brewer survived by jumping into a swimming pool, but suffered burns over most of his body. He nearly died and spent months in rehabilitation.
“They knew exactly what they were doing. It doesn’t mean anything how old they are or how young they are,” said Brewer earlier this year as two other teenagers pleaded no contest and were sent to prison.
Denver Jarvis pleaded no contest to pouring the rubbing alcohol on Brewer and is spending 8 years in prison.
Jesus Mendez admitted to flicking the lighter that ignited the fire and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
“I still don’t sleep. Michael wakes up at night and has nightmares,” Valerie Brewer said. “Physically, he’s okay, but the mental scars may never go away.”
Witnesses said it was Bent who ordered Jarvis to pour the alcohol on Brewer.
Bent was also offered a plea deal of ten years in prison but his family wanted a trial and insist he did nothing wrong.
Bent stands accused of starting the fight because Brewer owed a $40 debt. He was arrested a day before the burning for allegedly trying to steal a bike from the Brewer’s home.
Jarvis and Mendez are both expected to testify against Bent, and Michael Brewer may testify as well.
“It will be good therapy to get it off his chest,” Valerie said. “He’s scared, but we’re looking forward to moving on with the future.”
The judge has told the potential jurors that the trial could last at least two weeks.
If convicted, Bent could spend at least 30 years in prison.