By Taylor Likens
Robert Middleton, a Montgomery Count native and survivor of one of the most horrendous crimes in recent memory, has died.
Robert first made headlines in 1998. While celebrating his eighth birthday at his home in Splendora, he was taken by three neighbors, tied to a tree, doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Little Robert was burned over 99 percent of his body- everywhere except his palms and the soles of his feet, but somehow he staggered home. Robert defied all odds and thanks to swift and intensive medical treatment, he survived, though horribly disfigured with years of surgeries and painful procedures ahead. His family later stated Robert said he was attacked by two adults and one child. The child they named was Robert’s former friend, 13-year-old Don Collins. The only known motive for the brutal attack was that he supposedly accused Collins of stealing fireworks from him.
Robert’s family said there was insufficient evidence to make a case against the alleged perpetrators. Although Collins spent six months in Juvenile Hall, to this day, no one has been fully prosecuted for the burning.
In the years that followed, Robert would make frequent hospital trips, spending excruciating months at a time anchored to a hospital bed. First, skin samples were taken from his uninjured areas and cultivated into larger patches that were eventually grafted onto his body. Later on, he required hip surgery to help him simply stand straight. Though blind in one eye, he was eventually so fatigued by the constant surgeries that he would later turn down offers to perform surgeries that might improve his vision.
All together, Robert had over 200 surgeries performed, totaling over $1 million in medical expenses. Luckily, most of the expenses were covered by donations to the family from various sources, and The Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, which specializes in burn treatment.
Last year, Robert learned he had yet another battle ahead when he was diagnosed with skin cancer. He died just weeks before his 21st birthday. Despite his limitations and challenges, Robert’s final years were filled with camping trips, vacations, and other happy times spent with his family. Even after learning of his terminal cancer, Robert’s family says he remained optimistic and unchanged.
Now, with Robert’s final battle finished, his mother plans to begin a new one. Colleen Middleton says she will seek justice for her son. Before his death, Robert gave a deposition on his violent attack, which she now intends to finally taking to court in pursuit of their very belated lawsuit. So far, two lawyers have joined forces with Mrs. Middleton, and they have no intention of stopping until the case is settled.