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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Teen burned man in anger over beer money, police say

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer

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 on Thursday, charged as an adult with first-degree attempted murder.

The victim, Peter H. Krueger, whose age was not available, walked into Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center with second-degree burns on his face and hands just after midnight May 4, according to police.

Documents show authorities first suspected Krueger’s girlfriend of the attack – the victim initially told police he awoke at one point and saw her pouring lighter fluid on him.

But Krueger also said he was drunk at the time.

And five days later, a witness told Krueger it was Palmer who’d set him on fire, court papers show.

Palmer 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 stay at the Juvenile Detention Center.

Palmer, who is black, told police he was angry at Krueger for taking his money and said Krueger had made racist comments, 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 Turman 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,” Turman 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.