The mother of an 11-year-old East Baltimore boy charged with assault after a friend was burned denied the charges yesterday and said the boys were playing with matches.
"This was an accident, pure and simple," said the mother. The boy and his family's names are being withheld because he is a juvenile.
"My son didn't mean to set his friend on fire," the mother said. "They just made a terrible mistake."
Police say that after an argument early Tuesday evening, the 11-year-old doused Robert Myers, 9, with hair spray and set him on fire. They charged the 11-year-old as a juvenile with aggravated assault.
His mother said the boy was being held last night at the police department's juvenile detention center.
The incident took place at the older boy's home, a two-story rowhouse in the 2700 block of Tivoly Ave., near the Clifton Park golf course.
Robert, who lives in the 1600 block of E. 28th St., a block from the 11-year-old, was recovering yesterday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He suffered severe burns to his face and neck, said Baltimore police spokeswoman Agent Ragina L. Cooper.
The 11-year-old's mother, and other family members, said the two boys were best friends who loved to play and watch hockey. "Seems like they were always together. [They] and a few other kids in the neighborhood are very close," said the mother, 36, who has three other children.
The mother said she told her children, who were home Tuesday, to play outside while she went to vote. She said she locked the house and told them -- ages 11, 13 and 15 -- to stay within sight of their grandmother, who lives a few doors away.
The mother said her son and Robert somehow got into the locked house and went into the basement, where they were apparently smoking and playing with matches.
"Somehow, they got hold of some of my hair spray, and they were putting it in their hair," the mother said. "The police said they were fighting. But my boy said they were playing with matches and the hair spray just caught fire. They didn't know it was flammable."
The mother said the family is being monitored by Child Protective Services after she was charged with, but not convicted of, child abuse.
She said that her son suffered from lead poisoning as a toddler and has had behavioral problems recently.
"He can get angry at times and he has trouble paying attention at school," she said. "I just hope and pray this turns out all right so we can get him some support."
Robert's mother declined to comment.