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L.A. Now Live: A homeless woman is set ablaze in Van Nuys

December 28, 2012 |  6:51 am

A homeless woman known to many as Flo remained in critical condition Friday after being doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze on a bus bench on Van Nuys Boulevard.

Times Staff Writers Richard Winton and Ashley Powers will join us at 9 a.m. to discuss Thursday's horrific crime and how the community is reacting.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese official said it was unclear whether the suspect, Dennis Petillo, 24, even talked to the woman before he allegedly set her ablaze.

"There was no incident or dispute or clear motivation for this horrific attack. He did not know his victim. It defies explanation," Albanese said. "He is not of sound mind. ... The motive is mental illness."

Police have not released the victim's name, but area residents said she is Flo Parker. She was also known as Violet: a 5-foot-tall woman in her 60s with dirty blond hair and a time-worn face. But for much of Thursday, her identity was secondary. Violet had become a symbol to some residents of both the dangers that face the homeless and the depths of human cruelty.

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