Two young teens charged in the gruesome murder of man: ‘Doused him in lighter fluid and lit him on fire’

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ROCHESTER, NY — Two teenagers have been charged with second-degree murder after police say they killed a man by dousing him in flammable liquid and then setting him on fire.

Rochester Police said on March 12 the victim, Steven Amenhauser, 53, was deliberately set on fire by Adriel Riley, Jr., 14, and Zayvion Perry, 16, according to a report by 13WHAM News.

According to Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino, the victim and suspects knew each other.

The captain said that about 12:30 p.m., Amenhauser walked to a corner store and then went back to his residence, but five minutes later came running out on fire.

Police determined the victim was sitting in a chair at his Lyell Avenue apartment when he was doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire by the teens.

In a separate report by 13WHAM, a Rochester Police investigator said both teens made oral admissions at the scene.

Court documents said Perry also made admissions in a written statement. An affidavit by Rochester Police Investigator Nicholas Mazzola stated Perry admitted that after the victim was covered in the liquid, “he did attempt to ignite the floor area,” and “the other participant in the crime then set fire to the victim.”

Records show the teen and his mother waived their Miranda rights to an attorney before the statement, according to 13WHAM.

Umbrino said it was not clear whether the suspects followed Amenhauser home, if they were already in his apartment when he returned or what led to them being inside the residence.

Police had been called to Lyell Avenue. Upon arrival, police saw citizens trying to put out the fire raging on Amenhauser, according to 13WHAM’s report.

In footage recorded by 13WHAM outside the apartment, a jacket belonging to a mail carrier could be seen laying on the sidewalk. That jacket was used to try to smother the flames from Amenhauser’s clothing and body.

First responders transported him to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Amenhauser suffered second- and third-degree burns to 70 percent of his body and then died four days later, according to 13WHAM’s report.

Funeral services were held March 31 for Amenhauser at Holy Apostles Church on Austin Street in Rochester. The service was presided by Father Anthony Mugavero, pastor of Holy Apostles. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano was also on hand for the service.

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At a news conference, Umbrino said Amenhauser was originally from Texas. He was predeceased by his wife, and then last October, his girlfriend passed away. The victim lived alone and had no surviving family members. His health had also been deteriorating.

Umbrino also said Amenhauser had been originally adopted and had no surviving family at the time of his death:

“The reason I’m telling you a little bit about him, because there’s nobody else to speak for him.”

Regarding the teens, Umbrino said:

“The kids, they hung around in the neighborhood, and if anybody knows that neighborhood, everybody kind of knows everybody. So, they certainly knew Steven, but there was no type of familial relationship.”

The teens were found near the scene, and Umbrino said they initially gave police fake names.

Perry was initially charged with first-degree assault and attempted arson, and Riley with second-degree arson and assault. Murder charges were filed after Amenhauser’s death.

Umbrino said he could not provide a motive:

“I don’t think anybody’s prepared to say why this happened.”

The Daily Wire reported Amenhauser as a “mentally ill white man” and that his alleged assailants were black. It also noted:

“Rochester journalist and radio host Bob Lonsberry made the races public and highlighted the double-standard in news coverage that has contributed to the deterioration of Rochester, a city engulfed in an at-times violent campaign against police officers over alleged racism.”

Citing law enforcement sources, Lonsberry reported that the teens instructed the victim during the incident to tell authorities that it was two white men who perpetrated the crime, according to The Daily Wire’s report.

The suspects have been in previous trouble and selected at least one other vulnerable victim, according to news reports.

13WHAM News reported it learned that Riley had been released on another violent felony charge at the time of the Lyell Avenue incident:
 
“Much of Riley’s previous arrest history has been sealed by Family Court because of his age. After being charged with armed robbery, he was released again — because of his age — and had failed to show up to court ever since.
 
“The robbery occurred the night of Sept. 27 at a plaza on Chili Avenue in Gates. Police say three teenagers — one with a knife — robbed a man walking to his car after buying a pizza.
 
“The victim was deaf and did not hear them coming.”
 
According to 13WHAM’s report, Riley was charged with first-degree robbery.
 
On the night of the armed robbery, police said Riley’s mother rented a hotel room for the 14-year-old and some of his friends, according to 13WHAM. After Riley’s arrest, police charged the mother with endangering the welfare of a child.
 
In December, Rochester Police told 13WHAM that Riley was also arrested in connection with an October robbery. He was given an appearance ticket for that incident, according to the report.
 
Then earlier this year, Riley was arrested again while inside a stolen car with Perry, according to 13WHAM’s report. However, despite a former felony charge, it was not enough to hold him at the Children’s Detention Center. 13WHAM reported that sources said Riley was a no-show at later court appearances.
 
After the stolen car incident, Riley’s father was arrested, along with one of Perry’s parents, and were charged with endangering the welfare of a child, according to 13WHAM.
 
According to New York State prosecutors, Riley will be prosecuted as a juvenile offender and Perry as an adolescent offender. Both defendants’ cases will likely remain in the Youth Part of Superior Court, according to 13WHAM.

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