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Family of teen set on fire gets apology from suspects' mom

By Rich Phillips, CNN
Sherry Jarvis apologizes Wednesday with her daughters, Elyse, left, and Danielle, and her husband, Denver.
Sherry Jarvis apologizes Wednesday with her daughters, Elyse, left, and Danielle, and her husband, Denver.
  • Five teenagers are accused in the burning of a Florida boy
  • Mother of 2 suspects apologizes, says crime "should have never had occurred"
  • Doctors say victim, burned on about 65 percent of his body, is on ventilator, expected to live
  • Because he is sedated and on ventilator, victim hasn't communicated with detectives

Fort Lauderdale, Florida (CNN) -- She walked to the cameras and could barely look up. With her lip quivering, Sherry Jarvis apologized to the family of 15-year-old Michael Brewer, who is clinging to life in a hospital burn unit.

Jarvis is the mother of two boys who, along with three other youths, are accused in the burning of Brewer. Detectives say witnesses saw Brewer, consumed in flames, run about a hundred yards, tear off his shirt and jump into a swimming pool.

Brewer's screams can be heard on a 911 call from the October 12 incident. Doctors say he was burned on about 65 percent of his body.

"I'd just like to express how horribly sorry we are," Jarvis said in a public statement she and her family made Wednesday. Accompanied by her husband and two daughters, Jarvis spoke slowly as she addressed a gathering of reporters.

"This is a horrible incident that should have never had occurred." said Jarvis, her voice full of sorrow and shock. Her sons, ages 13 and 15, face charges that could send them to prison for a long time.

Authorities in Broward County, Florida, believe that Brewer was attacked in a chain of events that began when he did not pay one of the five boys $40 for a video game. That boy stole Brewer's father's bicycle, and when Brewer told police, the youth was arrested, then released, authorities said.

The next day, the group of five teens allegedly surrounded Brewer and, according to eyewitnesses, yelled, "He's a snitch. He's a snitch" before one of them poured alcohol over him, another sparked a lighter, and Brewer was ablaze.

All of the boys had been friends since elementary school, authorities said. They did sleepovers at one another's homes, and their families knew each other.

We pray for Michael's recovery every day, that he gets stronger, which we know in our hearts that he will.
--Sherry Jarvis, mother of suspect
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Crime
  • Florida
  • Burns

"We pray for Michael's recovery every day, that he gets stronger, which we know in our hearts that he will," Sherry Jarvis said.

But doctors are unsure about his recovery.

Brewer remains on a ventilator. A machine is breathing for him. Each day, a team of doctors spends about four hours changing his bandages.

He remains heavily sedated and is going through a very difficult period right now, according to doctors.

"The swelling has come way down, and you can recognize facial expressions now," said Dr. Nicholas Namias, medical director of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center in Miami.

"We're still dealing with the respiratory failure. We're dealing with infection now and the need to supply the massive amount of nutrition that this person needs to survive," Namias told CNN.

"People are writing horror stories ... but people just can't imagine the kind of sickness we're talking about. He is by no means well ... but the expectation is survival," he said.

Because he is sedated and on the ventilator, Brewer has been unable to communicate with detectives.

Earlier this week, prosecutors were granted extra time to build their cases against the five teens, four 15-year-olds and the 13-year-old. Prosecutors have until November 12 to charge the five as adults, or they will be charged as juveniles and released pending trial later.

The 13-year-old cannot face adult charges under Florida law, but that would change if Brewer died.

Prosecutors want to interview Brewer about the incident, but doctors say that is unlikely to happen before next week.

Brewer's family was not represented at the Jarvis family's public apology. The victim's parents could not be reached for comment.

After making her apology, Jarvis said the family would not take questions from the gathered reporters.

"I don't have the words to express any more. I can't answer any more questions because of the criminal case that's still pending," she said.

The Jarvis family has received death threats, according to family members and their attorney. They haven't stayed at their home since the incident, they say, adding that people have been throwing garbage and even dead animals on their property.

On Wednesday, with their attorney at their side, they simply wanted to say to Michael Brewer and his family that they are sorry.

Detectives have returned to the Brewer house, after two dolls were found in the swimming pool. The male and female dolls had been melted together, head to feet.

"At this point, we're thinking it's a sick joke, said Jim Leljedal, a spokesman for the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

"It's being classified as criminal mischief, but we'd like to know who's responsible," he said.