PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - A local woman is set on fire and a former employee is charged with the crime. The attack happened this morning at the Petersburg East Apartment Complex. The suspect was let go from his job just yesterday.
The assault happened as the victim showed up to work. Witnesses say the she had a cup of coffee in one hand and paperwork in the other when the suspect approached her from behind and attacked.
Henry Morton, 51, is charged in the crime. Witnesses say Morton's alleged attack on the office manager happened quickly.
"He hit her in the back of the head -- she was going like this -- trying to get away from him -- and he threw something on her and he flicked the lighter at the back of her head and it caught the third time," said witness Quiana Wesson.
Wesson says she grabbed a coat and tried to help put the fire out.
"She threw herself to the ground and started rolling … she had chemical burns all over her face , mouth -- and the blood was running down … it was really bad," Wesson said.
One neighbor, who asked we not reveal her identity, heard the chaos.
"She was screaming to the point it woke me up … 'somebody help me, oh my god, oh my god somebody help me,'" the witness said.
Neighbors say after the attack Morton took off, jumping over a fence and hoping on to a transit bus.
Police sent out an alert to all public transportation. Morton was arrested about 30 minutes after the attack.
Back at the apartment complex, neighbors are saddened and in disbelief.
"It's tragic. Sad, it's unbelievable for somebody to set somebody on fire alive -- that's cold hearted," the unidentified witness said.
"I'm sorry it happened to her," Wesson said. "I hope everything turns out okay."
The victim is in critical but stable condition at VCU Medical Center.