Poplar Bluff teen set on fire during argument

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A Poplar Bluff teenager is recovering in the burn unit of a St. Louis hospital after another teen allegedly squirted gasoline on him and lit him on fire.

Walter L. Currie, 15, is listed in good condition at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, according to a hospital spokesman.

Currie was injured about 9 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of Main and Davis streets, said Poplar Bluff Police Capt. Mike Elliott. Currie was with about eight friends, and "they had been in an ongoing dispute with two other juvenile boys," Elliott said. During a confrontation with the other two juveniles, "one of the boys had a squeeze bottle of gasoline and sprayed it on him."

The boy then used a lighter to ignite the gasoline.

The 15-year-old boy was arrested and has been turned over to juvenile authorities, Elliott said.

Walter, Elliott said, suffered burns to his torso. He initially was taken to Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center for treatment before being transferred to the St. Louis hospital.

"We're still in the midst of investigating," Elliott said. "There had been an incident earlier, a third-degree assault several days earlier, which had caused a heightening of fear and tension."

Elliott said there also had been incidents at school involving the teens.

According to Elliott, the incidents "started out as picking back and forth that came to the attention of police. It's just escalated."

There was a "core of one, two, three people" who were "always constant" in the incidents, he said. "They just don't like each other, [but] they call each other by their first name."

Butler-Ripley County chief juvenile officer Lesi Smith said juvenile officials are waiting for all the information from the police department before proceeding.

The juvenile, Smith said, remains in custody pending a detention hearing.

"He hasn't gone before the judge yet," she said.

Pertinent address:

Poplar Bluff, Mo.

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