FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – It’s been more than three years since Michael Brewer was set ablaze at the Lime Tree Apartments. Thursday, Brewer took the stand for the first time and told his story about what he could remember from that day.
Brewer’s testimony came as Matthew Bent is standing trial for attempted second-degree murder for allegedly ordering two others to set Michael on fire. Brewer was visibly shaken at different points during his testimony, fought back tears at one point, and even was angry at one point during cross-examination.
According to prosecutors, the entire chain of events started because of an alleged $40 debt Bent wanted to collect from Brewer. On the Sunday before the attack, Brewer said Bent came to his house and said, “Do you have my money?” Brewer replied, “No.”
Brewer initially told prosecutors during questioning that Bent had tried to sell him a sort of bong/bowl that Michael said he didn’t want. Under cross-examination, Bent was found to have told defense attorneys the fine was over a “Little Mermaid” video.
When defense attorney Perry Thurston asked Brewer if he was lying to them during his deposition, he replied “Yes. I did.”
Brewer’s couldn’t remember much of the details of the fateful 48 hours that ended with him being set on fire. He said he had known Denver Jarvis and Matthew Bent from around the neighborhood at school.
Brewer told prosecutors that Bent told him he was going to have to buy the bong/bowl whether he liked it or not. When Brewer indicated to Bent he wasn’t going to pay, Michael said Bent allegedly got on a bike on the front porch belonging to Brewer’s father and said he’d take the bike instead.
Brewer said Bent started to back the bike out of the porch. “I didn’t know what else to do, I just called for someone older,” Bent said.
Brewer told prosecutors that Bent left without taking the bicycle. But after that, Michael said his to his recollection he couldn’t remember what else happened the Sunday night before the attack. Under cross-examination, Brewer would admit to remembering seeing Matthew Bent arrested by police.
The following day, Brewer said he didn’t go to school that day, “because I thought something was going to happen to me because I got Matthew Bent arrested.” Michael told prosecutors he told his mother he wasn’t feeling good and his parents allowed him to stay home.
Under cross-examination, Brewer said he missed around 5 days a school per month. Prosecutors asked Brewer if he was bullied by others at school and if that was the real reason he didn’t want to go to school.
Brewer indicated that Bent, Denver Jarvis, and others bullied him. When asked what they bullied him about, Brewer replied, “the clothes I wore, how I acted, how long my hair was, they’d call me girl.” When prosecutors asked if that was why he would fake being sick to get out of school, Michael said “Yes.”
Brewer would later admit under cross-examination to hanging out with Bent in the park and playing basketball with him.
Brewer told the jury that while he was at home from school, “I played video games most of the day until school got out.” As school was letting out, Brewer said he was going to a friend’s house, but “I didn’t make it there of course.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys asked why he was going past the local hangouts of some of the kids that close to the end of school. “By the time I got to Lime Tree Apartments, I figured they’d be long gone,” Brewer said.
As Brewer walked to a stop sign near the apartment complex, he told the jury he was surrounded by Bent, Jarvis, and other kids who he couldn’t remember the names. Michael said, “I don’t remember a conversation,” when the group first confronted him.
Brewer said “Bent was on a bicycle. I walked straight and hopped a fence and I saw Bent coming around the corner.” While fidgeting on the stand, Michael said he was “scared” when he saw Bent coming around the corner.
“He (Bent) told me ‘nothing’s going to happen.’ He said, ‘Mike, come here, nothing’s going to happen to you.’ I just stand there and he just came closer and closer. I guess he was trying to distract me or something,” Brewer said.
Brewer said he never saw the others come up behind him.
Thurston asked Brewer if Bent was speaking in a bad or aggressive way or did he use any fighting words. “No, he didn’t,” Brewer told the defense.
“I remember a cold liquid going down my back and I started walking and felt a burning,” Brewer told the jury. “Then I started running. I started running towards the poll and jumped a fence and dove into the swimming pool.”
Brewer told the jury a couple came out and helped pull him out of the pool.
“I remember I was looking down and could see skin hanging from my arms. I felt like I was going to die,” Brewer said. “I started getting really cold and I started seeing blur. That’s basically what I can remember. I was in tons of pain.”
Thurston asked Brewer if he heard anyone say “let’s do this” or something like that to him before the attack. “No,” Brewer replied. When asked if he saw Bent with anything in his hands on the day you were set on fire, Brewer replied, “No, I didn’t.”
When asked by prosecutors if Brewer suffered any long-term impacts from the burning attack, Brewer responded affirmatively.
“When it gets really cold, my skin gets really tight to where I can barely move,” Brewer said.
On Wednesday, two other teens charged in the attack, who have accepted plea deals from the state, testified for the prosecution.
Denver Jarvis, who pleaded no contest to his role in the attack, told jurors Wednesday that Matthew Bent offered him money to pour rubbing alcohol on Michael Brewer.
“He said, I give you 10 or 5 dollars if you throw that on Michael,” Jarvis testified, during the second day of testimony. “I said, okay.”
Jarvis testified that as he, Bent and a group of boys walked home from school in October 2009 they saw Brewer. Jarvis said he put the liquid on Brewer and walked to Bent to get paid.
“(Bent) go to reach into his pocket to get the money and I see everybody running,” Jarvis told the jury. “So, I looked back to see why everybody’s running and I see Brewer on fire. So, I realized what I just did and I realized what just happened.
Jesus Mendez pleaded no contest to flicking the lighter that sent Brewer up in flames. Mendez was sentenced to 11 years in prison while Jarvis is serving 8 years. The state is relying on Jarvis’ testimony to show Bent set up the attack but Bent’s lawyers have a different view of Jarvis’ statements.
Thurston showed the jury Jarvis’ videotaped interrogation from two and a half years ago. Thurston said on the tape Jarvis never mentioned that Bent offered to pay him. The defense said that proves Bent did not mastermind the attack.
The defense contends that Jarvis changed his story in hopes of getting time shaved off his prison sentence.
If Bent is convicted of attempted second-degree murder, he faces up at least 30 years in prison.