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Los Angeles News

Man Pleads Not Guilty To Attempted Murder
Posted by Ivetta Babadjanian on Jan 3, 2013 - 1:42:45 PM

LOS ANGELES—A 24-year-old man accused of setting a homeless woman on fire while she slept on a bus bench pleaded not guilty on Monday, December 31 for charges of attempted murder and aggravated mayhem.
Flo "Violet" Parker. Photo courtesy of

The suspect, Dennis Petillo, appeared at the courthouse in Van Nuys four days after he was arrested for the crime. Witnesses indicated that the man allegedly went into a Walgreens store at the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way where he purchased what seemed to be rubbing alcohol on Thursday, December 27.

He then walked out of the store and poured the flammable liquid on the 67-year-old woman. Petillo threw a match on her, setting her on fire, and ran from the scene. He was chased by a witness who called 911 to report the crime.

Authorities believe Petillo may be mentally ill and state there appears to be no motive to have triggered the incident. Petillo has twice pleaded guilty to charges related to vehicle theft since 2008. He was sentenced to two years in prison for his second offense.

Reports indicate that the woman has lived on the bus bench for years. The victim's name is Flo Parker but people in her neighborhood know her as Violet. She currently remains in the hospital in critical but stable condition.

Parker attended the 4 p.m. Spanish service each Sunday and the community breakfast on Saturday mornings at the
First Lutheran Church of Van Nuys. The church is accepting donations and even blankets for Violet who may be facing a long recovery. Donations can be made to First Lutheran Church of Van Nuys, Attention: Help for Violet, 6952 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91405.

According the the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, Petillo could have a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted. Prosecutors are requesting his bail be set at $1 million. His next hearing is scheduled for mid-January.


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