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Man charged in torching of homeless woman pleads not guilty

 Phillip Furtado, 48, lights a candle to pay his respects for a homeless woman who was set on fire while sleeping on a bus stop bench Thursday morning in Van Nuys. The suspect in the crime has pleaded not guilty.A man suspected of setting a homeless woman on fire in Van Nuys pleaded not guilty Monday after being arraigned on charges of attempted murder and mayhem, a prosecutor said.   

Dennis Petillo, 24, of Van Nuys is accused of dousing the homeless woman with rubbing alcohol while she slept on a bus bench and setting her ablaze early Thursday near Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way.

Police have not released the victim’s name, but residents said she is Flo Parker, 67, also known as Violet. The 5-foot-tall Parker was a familiar presence in the area.

The victim remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, according to a statement released by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Authorities believe Petillo is mentally ill and said there appeared to be no motive in the “horrific” attack. Since 2008, Petillo has twice pleaded guilty to charges related to vehicle theft. The second time, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

If convicted, Petillo faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors said. Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Carney said Petillo’s next hearing will be in mid-January.  

ALSO:

Charlie Sheen apologizes for homophobic slur

Frost advisories issued as cold weather persists across Southland

Officials' Rose Parade advice: Don't bring a tent, do wear a jacket

-- Richard Winton, Adolfo Flores and Matt Stevens

Photo: Phillip Furtado, 48, lights a candle to pay his respects for a homeless woman who was set on fire while sleeping on a bus stop bench Thursday morning in Van Nuys. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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