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Prosecutor: Suspect used flare to set homeless man afire

January 26, 2009 |  2:25 pm

A one-time barber used a road flare to set a homeless man on fire after pouring gasoline on him, prosecutors said today in filing a capital murder case against the accused killer.

L.A. County Head Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman said Ben Matthew Martin, 30, was charged with one count of murder with special circumstance allegations of murder by torture and murder by means of lying in wait in connection with the killing of John Robert McGrath.

The special circumstances allegations make Martin eligible for the death penalty. Martin also is charged with one count each of torture, arson causing great bodily injury and arson of property. LAPD arrested Martin in Riverside County last week. He was connected to the 2008 slaying by eyewitnesses and DNA at the scene of the crime. The suspect left a red plastic gasoline can behind at 3rd and Berendo streets.

Authorities say the motive was unclear, but sources said the unemployed barber had previously voiced his dislike of the homeless in the area.

-- Richard Winton