Home » Breaking News, World News » Robert Middleton Dies 13 Years Later After Being Burnt Alive on a Tree

By Jane Nambi

Robert Middleton faced the worst horror of his life, moreover on his eighth birthday. He was tied to a tree and set on fire like he was a piece of junk.

Robert’s body was burnt up to 99% with third degree burns and it was feared he was going to die. But with 200 operations, the eight year old survived.

The then eight year old Robbie Middleton before being burnt alive.

The horrific incident took place on Robbie’s birthday which was on 29th April 1998, the same day he had met his neighbor, Don Collins, 13, on a wooden path near their homes in Splendora, Montgomery County. They had however met earlier on on the same spot and the boy had raped him.

To ensure his silence, Collins burnt Robbie; and this worked. Robbie did not tell about the rape, until years later, just before his death. “Don grabbed me by my shoulder and threw gas in my face, after that I don’t really remember anything,” Robbie said in the video statement.

A Schulenburg Sticker reported that his mother Colleen said during the trial: “It was so hard to take in what my eyes were seeing. All of his hair was scorched, and there was skin hanging around his ankles. A little while later, I walked down to the tree where it happened. There was a perfect outline of Robbie’s body scorched into the bark of the tree.”

Collins is already convicted of raping another child but now faces felony murder after Robbie mentioned him as the man who raped him and later burnt him alive on a back of a tree now fourteen years ago.

His scorched skin was blackened, his eyelids had been burned off and his body looked like a charred patchwork.

Collins was not prosecuted for the crime but police statements reveal that he was held in custody after he made statements only a person at the scene could have made. In 2001, aged 16, Don Collins was jailed for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy.

To recover, Robbie had to endure over 200 operations and skin grafts but according to his mother, he never gave in to self pity and anger. The Schulenburg Sticker reported that one of the surgeons said Robbie, shortly after the incident, during the first few months at Shriners, he suffered nightmares, convinced that he was being burned again.

The nightmares were dangerous because too much movement risked tearing his newly-grafted skin. “I grieved for a long time but after a while, Robert became the same happy-go-lucky child and life was good, life was liveable again,” his mother Colleen told CNN in March this year.

Asked why he decided to name Collins years later, Robbie’s  mother said, “He did it because was afraid that Don might attack another child and that was Robert’s motivation for giving that deposition.”

Robbie got third degree burns and had to endure over 200 surgeries.

Robert Middleton died from skin cancer in April 2011 shortly before his 21st birthday. His death was excluded as a homicide because the particular type of cancer he suffered from can only come from enduring skin grafts for serious burns.

The 27-minute long statement was made from his hospital bed in which he accuses Don Collins of sexual assault. After each of the 200 operations, the Schulenburg Sticker reported how Robbie was ‘stretched’ by braces to try and give his skin a little elasticity which made it mandatory to learn how to walk time and time again.

Colleen and her husband Bobby won a civil lawsuit against Don Collins in 2011, awarding them with $150 billion, the biggest settlement in U.S history.

Tragically, he was to die just weeks short of his 21st birthday from a cancer which doctors blamed on the original injuries.

Collins, now a 27-year-old is a convicted sex offender and he is to be charged with felony murder.

Robert Ray ‘Robbie’ Middleton was celebrating his eight birthday in 29th April 1998 when he met his neighbour Don Collins on a wooden path near their homes in Splendora, Montgomery County.

Two weeks earlier, according to Robbie Middleton’s statement before his death, the pair had met in the same spot and Mr Collins, then 13, had overpowered the young boy and raped him. Now he wanted him silenced.

‘Don grabbed me by my shoulder and threw gas in my face, after that I don’t really remember anything,’ Robbie Middleton said in the video statement.

The Schulenburg Sticker reported that his mother Colleen said during the trial: ‘It was so hard to take in what my eyes were seeing.

‘All of his hair was scorched, and there was skin hanging around his ankles.

‘A little while later, I walked down to the tree where it happened. There was a perfect outline of Robbie’s body scorched into the bark of the tree.’

Don Collins was not prosecuted for the crime, although police statements reveal that he was held in custody after he made statements only a person at the scene could have made.

In 2001, aged 16, Don Collins was jailed for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy.

Robbie Middleton’s resulting third degree burns on 99 per cent of his body led the young boy spent most of his life in a specialist unit at Shriners Burn Hospital in Galveston.

The rehabilitation, which included over 200 operations and skin grafts, was excruciating, but his mother said he never gave in to self pity and anger.

The Schulenburg Sticker reported how one of the surgeons described how during the first few months at Shriners, the little boy suffered nightmares, convinced that he was being burned again.

But his haunted sleep was especially dangerous because if he moved about too much, he risked tearing his newly-grafted skin.

‘I grieved for a long time but after a while, Robert became the same happy-go-lucky child and life was good, life was liveable again,’ his mother Colleen told CNN in March this year.

Mrs Middleton said of her son’s decision to name Collins: ‘He did it because was afraid that Don might attack another child and that was Robert’s motivation for giving that deposition.’

Robert Middleton died from skin cancer in April 2011 shortly before his 21st birthday.

A medical examiner ruled that Mr Middleton’s death was a homicide as the particular type of cancer he suffered from can only come from enduring skin grafts for serious burns.

The 27-minute long statement was made from his hospital bed in which he accuses Don Collins of sexual assault.

As graphic pictures shown to the jury revealed the horrifying extent of the youngster’s injuries, many openly wept at the images.

His scorched skin was blackened, his eyelids had been burned off and his body looked like a charred patchwork.

A judge had to order that a box of tissues was passed around the jury box as members gasped at the extent of the wounds the boy had miraculously survived, the Schulenburg Sticker reported.

They heard how the boy had to routinely endure skin grafts, which were then cut away, to allow the boy’s bones room to grow as it was too inflexible to allow movement, before eventually being stitched up again, it was reported.

After each of the 200 operations, the Schulenburg Sticker reported how Robbie was ‘stretched’ by braces to try and give his skin a little elasticity.

Because of these prolonged periods where he was strapped to braces, he had to learn how to walk time and time again.

Colleen and her husband Bobby won a civil lawsuit against Don Collins in 2011, awarding them with $150 billion, the biggest settlement in U.S history.

Attorney Craig Sico says the punitive damage award is symbolic and the Middleton family, from Montgomery County, Texas, expects none of it will be paid.

At the time of the lawsuit Mrs Middleton told ABC: ‘I wasn’t expecting it to turn out as well as it did. We just wanted justice.

‘It tells me that they understood that he was a precious human being and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.’

Neither Collins nor any attorney appeared for him at the civil trial.

After filing murder charges in September, Montgomery County attorney David Walker has now dismissed in and filed a new charge of felony murder

Coleen Middleton has said she supports dismissing the murder charge for felony murder: ‘Our lawyers see this is a strategic move, one that is moving in the right direction.’