Two teenagers from upstate New York have been arrested on arson and murder charges after police say they set a man on fire as he sat in a chair in his own apartment, leaving him with severe burns resulting in his death.
Zayvion Perry, 16, and 14-year-old Adriel Riley Jr, were initially charged with arson and assault in connection with the attack on 53-year-old Steven Amenhauser that took place in Rochester last Friday.
After the victim succumbed to his injuries at a hospital on Tuesday, prosecutors upgraded the teenage suspects’ charges to second-degree murder.
Zayvion Perry, 16, and 14-year-old Adriel Riley Jr, have been charged with second-degree murder and arson in the death of Steven Amenhauser, 53 (pictured), who was set on fire
Amenhauser was sitting in a chair in his apartment on Lyell Avenue in Rochester, New York, when he was doused with a flammable liquid and set alight
Investigators said Amenhauser, who had no family and lived alone, had left to go to a corner store just before the attack on Friday.
About five minutes after he returned and entered his apartment in the 500 block of Lyell Avenue, he ran out engulfed in flames, reported WROC.
Rochester Police Department Captain Frank Umbrino said during a press conference on Tuesday that while inside his apartment, Amenhauser was doused with a flammable liquid as he sat in a chair and was then set on fire.
Rochester Police Department Captain Frank Umbrino said the victim was familiar with the suspects from the neighborhood
The victim was rushed to University of Rochester Medical Center’s Kessler Burn & Trauma Center with second- and third-degree burns over 70 per cent of his body.
After clinging to life for three days, Amenhauser succumbed to his injuries at around 4am on Tuesday.
Umbrino said Amenhauser was in declining health and ‘vulnerable.’ He was not related to his suspected attackers but knew them.
‘The kids, they hung around in the neighborhood, and if anybody knows that neighborhood, everybody kind of knows everybody,’ he said. ‘So, they certainly knew Steven, but there was no type of familial relationship.’
When asked about a possible motive, the police captain said there is no evidence to suggest that the attack was drug-related, and he would not comment on possible gang ties.
‘I don’t think anyone is prepared to say why this happened,’ Umbrino said.
It is unclear at this time whether the teens followed Amenhauser home, or whether they had entered the apartment earlier and were lying in wait for him.
Amenhauser was a native of Texas, was adopted and lived alone. He lost his wife years earlier, and then his long-time girlfriend passed away in October 2020, reported Democrat & Chronicle.
Amenhauser lived alone, had no surviving family and was in declining health and ‘vulnerable’
Police are seen on the scene of the arson attack on Lyell Avenue on Friday
‘Seeing the pictures of this guy and knowing he has no family around to speak for him…this is one that I’ll remember,’ a visibly shaken Umbrino told reporters.
Riley is being held without bail and Perry is being held on $50,000 cash bail at the county children’s center, according to Spectrum News.
The Monroe County District Attorney’s office said Perry will be prosecuted as an adolescent offender, while Riley will be prosecuted as a juvenile offender in Youth Part.
‘Youth Part is a criminal court where adolescent offenders and juvenile offenders remain subject to criminal liability as adults,’ prosecutors said. ‘Neither defendant will be transferred to family court at this time.’
As CNY Central reported, Riley has a prior criminal history, which includes a felony charge related to a September 2020 robbery of a deaf man who was accosted by three teens brandishing a knife outside a shopping center.
Because of his age, Riley was released from jail after his arrest on a felony charge of armed robbery, but he was arrested again in December and issued an appearance ticket in connection with another robbery.
In late January, Riley was allegedly caught in a stolen car, but under New York’s Raise the Age laws, which raise the age at which juvenile offenders are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, Riley was released from detention. He has been a no-show at court appearances ever since.