A 19-year-old man with a history of mental illness was arrested and charged yesterday in the beating and burning death of a burglar trying to break into a Northwest Baltimore home, police said.
The incident began about 11 p.m. Sunday, when Dwayne Gibson spotted a man in his grandmother's back yard in the 3900 block of Grantley Road, police said.
Gibson is accused of hitting the 43-year-old man on the head repeatedly with a crowbar, police said. As the victim lay on concrete steps leading to the basement, police said, Gibson allegedly poured a flammable liquid on the man and lit a match.
The man was quickly engulfed in flames and suffered burns over 90 percent of his body.
The victim, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of relatives, died yesterday morning at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, police said.
Gibson told detectives that he believed the victim was leaving the house after a break-in, although investigators said they believe the man was attempting to burglarize the home when Gibson saw him.
Before the man's death, police charged Gibson with attempted first-degree murder. Prosecutors said they were awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether to file murder charges.
The killing shocked the teen-ager's family members, who said that Gibson has been battling mental illness for much of his life.
"This is a mystery," said Ella Howard, 51, an aunt. "I just don't understand it."
As a youth, Gibson shuttled between his grandmother's house and his mother's home in Washington, relatives said. He did not know his father well - Dwayne Gibson Sr. is serving a prison sentence for armed robbery.
Gibson had problems managing anger and often did not obey or listen to his elders, according to relatives. When his grandmother recently refused to allow him to stay at her house because she found him threatening, Gibson began sleeping on her back porch, relatives said.
"He was pretty much a troubled person," said Gibson's uncle, Kelvin Gibson, 41. "His conduct was out of control. He was never happy. He was always sad, always down."
Court documents and psychiatric examinations reveal that Gibson was a troubled man who abused drugs and alcohol and had repeatedly engaged in fights. He set fires, abused animals and often skipped school, the records show.
In a presentence evaluation in a trespassing case, a doctor wrote that Gibson had "joked about past offenses and did not have remorse about his past behaviors" and had anti-social personality disorder.
In the fall of last year, Gibson was treated at an in-patient mental health facility for a month and was prescribed medication for psychiatric disorders, according to the report and his relatives.
Gibson had also abused illegal drugs, according to the report.
While smoking about $100 worth of marijuana a week, he drank a pint of liquor every day and sometimes took PCP, the presentence report said. It included the observation that Gibson "joked about wanting to find some PCP in Baltimore" after he said he was going to stop using narcotics.
When Gibson was 14, the report said, he set his first fire, and he once threw a firecracker that exploded in a teacher's face.
A high school dropout, Gibson said he had two children, ages 3 years and 8 months, and admitted to abusing his girlfriend, according to the report.
"When I asked whether ... he had ever abused her, he laughed at the question," the doctor wrote in the presentencing report. "He said that he has smacked her around once in the past."
Although he has never been charged with a violent crime, Gibson has been arrested twice as an adult.
In September last year, he was arrested for trespassing after breaking into a woman's apartment and sleeping there.
Court records show that officials tried to determine whether Gibson was mentally fit, and a judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation. It concluded that Gibson was competent to stand trial, records show. He was found guilty and sentenced to a year of probation.
In January, he was charged with violating his probation after being arrested on allegations of throwing a 64-ounce bottle of orange soda at a police car. The bottle exploded and showered soda on the cruiser, police said.
Judge Charlotte M. Cooksey ordered another psychiatric evaluation, which again stated that Gibson was competent to stand trial, court records show. The judge found Gibson guilty of malicious destruction of property for throwing the bottle and sentenced him to 61 days in jail. On June 16, Cooksey sentenced Gibson to 90 days in jail for violating his probation in the trespassing case, records show.
In a letter, Gibson's grandmother pleaded with Cooksey to get her grandson help and urged the judge to recommend civil commitment for treatment or send him to anger-management counseling.
The grandmother, Hattie Gibson, who declined to be interviewed, wrote that Dwayne Gibson was hearing voices and thought he was being watched by surveillance cameras.
"I believe if he is released on June 16, 2003, he may do harm to himself or someone else," Hattie Gibson wrote. "I feel unsafe around him, but I love him very much."