Police say a teenage boy accused of setting a homeless man on fire was upset because the man had taken his money without buying him beer as promised. John C. Palmer, 16, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Thursday, charged as an adult with first-degree attempted murder. The victim, Peter H. Krueger, whose age was not available, walked into Sacred Heart Medical Center with second-degree burns on his face and hands just after midnight on May 4, according to police. Documents show authorities first suspected Krueger’s girlfriend of the attack, largely because the victim initially told police he awoke at one point and saw her pouring lighter fluid on him. But Krueger admitted to being drunk at the time, and five days later, a witness told Krueger it was Palmer who set him afire, court papers show. The boy was arrested Monday. On Thursday, Judge Ellen Kalama Clark set the boy’s bond at $250,000 and granted his public defender’s request for him to say at the Juvenile Detention Center. Palmer, who is black, told police Krueger had made racist comments and that he was angry at him for stealing his money, according to a statement of facts prepared by Spokane police Detective Corey Turman. The two scuffled that night before Palmer returned and found Krueger asleep, court papers show. That’s when Palmer dragged Krueger’s blanket into a campfire, then ran when Krueger woke up, according to the statement of facts. Palmer told Truman he didn’t intend to kill Krueger, but then replied “burn him, kill him, I don’t know,” when Turman asked what he thought would happen to someone set on fire, according to the statement. “He said he only wanted to burn him a little as a joke,” Truman wrote. Police recovered a burned sock at the crime scene. Court papers show Palmer said he’d burned a sock while trying to stomp out the fire before Krueger awoke. Palmer’s criminal record includes convictions for first-degree criminal trespassing, third-degree malicious mischief, fourth-degree assault and harassment, court papers show.
Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or firstname.lastname@example.org