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Malcolm X’S Widow Burned Betty Shabazz In Critical Condition After Suspicious Fire; 12-Year-Old Grandson Arrested

New York Daily News

The troubled 12-year-old grandson of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X was charged Sunday in the suspicious blaze that left his revered grandmother Betty Shabazz clinging tenuously to life.

Malcolm Shabazz - named for his grandfather - was arrested on a juvenile delinquency charge hours after Shabazz was found burned in her Yonkers apartment.

Shabazz, 63, suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of her body and was in extremely critical condition at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx after the 1:40 a.m. blaze.

“She’s not doing good at all. Keep her in your prayers,” said Ilyasah Shabazz, one of her six daughters, as tears streamed down her face.

Malcolm, who has a history of mental problems and is described by family friends as “emotionally disturbed,” had been living with his grandmother.

He is the son of Qubilah Shabazz, 36, who was charged in 1995 with hiring a hit man to kill Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in a bid to avenge her father’s murder. The charges were formally dropped May 1.

Farrakhan - whom Betty Shabazz long accused of being involved in the assassination - issued a statement saying, “We are all praying for her full and complete recovery.”

The two reconciled two years ago.

Ilyasah and her sister Malikah Shabazz kept vigil for their mother at the hospital Sunday, greeting a stream of teary well-wishers.

Fire officials said Betty Shabazz, an administrator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and host of a weekly radio talk show on WLIB-AM, was found in a back hallway - the only part of the three-bedroom apartment that was charred.

“That’s why it’s suspicious, because we have no idea how it could have done so much damage to her,” said Fire Capt. Anthony Troia.

New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir said an accelerant was used and the front door forced open.

Family friends told the Daily News the boy apparently started the fire outside her bedroom door. Shabazz woke up and tried to put out the blaze, but her nightclothes ignited.

She undressed and sought help from neighbors.

When firefighters arrived, Shabazz was still conscious, crying over and over, “My grandson is still in there!” But the boy was nowhere to be found, fire officials said.

At 5:30 a.m., police in neighboring Mount Vernon received a 911 call saying the boy was on California Ave. and had taken ill.

Police said Malcolm was examined at Mount Vernon Hospital and released to detectives. A source said he was being held at a Westchester County psychiatric hospital and could appear in Family Court as early as today.

Malcolm Shabazz had a troubled relationship with his mother, who now lives in San Antonio, Texas, and works at a radio station there.

In late 1994, when they lived in Minneapolis, he told child welfare workers that his mother physically and sexually abused him, according to records obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1995.

He was taken from her custody but she was never charged. She told child welfare officials that her son was psychotic and said he should be placed in a psychiatric hospital, according to the police report.

He was hospitalized at the Fairview Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis, but doctors decided he did not suffer from psychosis and did not require medication, the report says.

“There were problems there with that child. He’s a bright young man, but there were some troubles there,” said longtime family lawyer Percy Sutton.

He lived with his grandmother until about three months ago, when he went to live with his mother in Texas. He moved into his grandmother’s luxury apartment at 25 Parkview Ave. on the Bronxville-Yonkers border in the last month after his mother learned he was hanging out “with a rough bunch of kids” in Texas, said Wilbert Tatum, a family friend and publisher of the Amsterdam News. Tatum said the boy had clashed with his grandmother and wanted to go back to Texas.

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