Prosecutors seek justice for burned Texas boy

By Juan A. Lozano

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 12 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

"There was never normalcy, never," Middleton said.

By his 18th birthday, Robert told his family he was done with surgeries and was happy the way he was.

The family, which was living in Missouri at the time, looked forward to a future in which Robert could one day live by himself, learn to drive and become a wildlife rehabilitator. But in March 2010, Robert was diagnosed with skin cancer. Despite surgeries to remove it, he died in April 2011.

Before Robert's death, the family had hired an attorney to look into his case because Middleton felt authorities "weren't doing all that they could have done."

Two weeks before his death, Robert gave his deposition.

That deposition became part of a lawsuit his family filed against Collins. In December 2011, a jury returned a $150 billion verdict in favor of Robert's family. But the verdict, which was mostly symbolic, and Robert's revelation in his deposition renewed interest in the case.

Lambright, who took office in January, said a six-month investigation gathered new evidence, including claims that Collins told the other 8-year-old he was convicted of sexually assaulting that he would burn the boy just like Robert.

On Oct. 21, Lambright is scheduled to ask that Collins' murder charge be transferred to adult court. If a judge denies the request, that would end the case.

Collins does not have an attorney for the murder charge. But Todd Dillon, his attorney on the failure-to-register charge, said he is worried that information from the murder case might make its way into the trial in San Jacinto County, which is set for February.

"It's important to remember he has never been convicted" in the murder case, Dillon said. "As such, he still has the right of presumption of innocence."

Middleton, who moved with her family from Missouri to Galveston about a month ago to be closer to legal developments in the case, said she wondered at one point if she was selfish to ask that Robert survive.

But Robert told his mother he was happy he lived, and Middleton is grateful she had 13 more years of memories with her son.

"They were good years," Middleton said. "I just remember the good stuff."

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juanlozano70 .

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