Police say man beat and set fire to victims


Decatur man faces attempted murder charges after police say he beat and set fire to victims

DECATUR — Warren D. Burnett is facing two preliminary charges of attempted murder after police say he helped pistol-whip two men before dousing them with gasoline or lighter fluid and setting them on fire.

The victims, ages 24 and 22, suffered terrible burns to their faces and upper bodies in the Nov. 10 attack, according to a sworn affidavit from Decatur Police.

The younger man had to be intubated and was flown from Decatur Memorial Hospital to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield for more specialized treatment. He suffered “severe burns to his face, lips, left eye, both hands, upper chest and left thigh,” according to the affidavit, and had complained of “chest/throat and lung pain.”

The 24-year-old, with second-degree burns to his face, left hand, left forearm and the left side of his body, also needed six staples to close a gaping wound in the back of his head, the affidavit said.

When the men were well enough to speak days later, they provided information that led police to the scene of the assault, a house in the 700 block of West Waggoner Street where Burnett, 25, was in residence and arrested Friday.

A check of Macon County Jail records showed that Burnett is free after posting $50,000 bond on bail set at $500,000; all preliminary charges are subject to review by the state attorney’s office.

Detective Brad Hall, writing in the affidavit, said Burnett had been identified by the victims as a man they knew as “Duke,” and he had been one of four men who had taken part in the pistol-whipping and beating before Burnett doused the two victims and set them on fire. The older victim thought he had used gasoline, the younger victim said he believed it was lighter fluid, Hall said. 

Both men said they had gone to the house on the evening of Nov. 10 after arranging to buy cannabis there, and the older victim said he had bought the drug from Burnett previously.

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Hall said the older victim said he had gone inside, leaving the other man in the car, and had been immediately robbed and attacked, and was beaten unconscious. The younger man, waiting in the car outside, became concerned and, after 20 minutes, messaged “Duke” and asked what was going on.

“(He) said two subjects exited the residence (the other victim had gone into) and dragged him out of the car at gunpoint,” said Hall. “(The victim) said he started fighting with the subjects because he thought they were going to shoot him.”

This younger victim said he was then beaten about the face and head with a gun before being hauled inside the house and thrown on the floor next to the older victim. “(He) said when he first saw (the older victim) he thought he was dead,” added Hall. “(He) stated after being thrown to the ground the subject he knew as Duke started spraying him (and the other victim) with lighter fluid. He said Duke then lit him and (the other victim) on fire.”

It took a couple of minutes, Hall said, but both victims described being able to beat the flames out as their assailants looked on, holding them at gunpoint. Both men then had pillowcases pulled over their heads and were marched back to their car, driven to another area, and told to get out.

Hall said they heard another car driving away and, when they pulled off the pillow cases, they found their vehicle was still there. They then got inside and drove themselves to Decatur Memorial Hospital despite their severe injuries.

Detective Sgt. Chris Copeland, speaking to the Herald & Review Monday, said the investigation continued and “additional arrests are possible” as police seek the other suspects involved.

Mug shots from the Herald & Review

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid

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