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Colorado man accused of burning father to death at party

Saturday, June 28, 2003

LA JUNTA, Colo. -- A man will stand trial on charges of murder for allegedly dousing his father with kerosene, setting him ablaze and saying: "You are going to die today -- happy birthday, you are the candle."

Ernest Montoya, 58, died several weeks after he was burned at his birthday party March 11. He told police that his son, Thomas Martinez, had set him on fire.

On Thursday, a judge ordered Martinez to stand trial and remain jailed on $100,000 bail. He is also charged with a crime of violence and five counts of being a habitual criminal.

Martinez, who was arrested March 13, told police the fire occurred while the two men were arguing about whether kerosene was flammable. He said his father poured kerosene on his own shirt and set it on fire to prove that kerosene would burn, police said.

A police officer testified that Montoya told him his son threw a chemical on him and lit him on fire with a cigarette lighter.

Ray Torrez, a lawyer for Martinez, said his client set his father on fire by accident and tried to put it out afterward.


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