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Man charged in setting woman afire

LOS ANGELES — A 24-year-old Los Angeles man was charged Monday with attempted murder after a homeless woman was set on fire last week as she slept on a suburban bus bench, the district attorney’s office said.

Dennis Petillo is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court on the attempted murder charge and an additional count of aggravated mayhem, said Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney. Carney will ask that Petillo’s bail be set at $1.03 million.

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Prosecutors say Petillo threw a flammable liquid on the 67-year-old woman then set her on fire last Thursday. She remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, officials said.

Police have released no motive for the crime that shocked the San Fernando Valley community of Van Nuys, where the woman had made her home on the streets for years.

Neighbors set up a makeshift shrine at the bench where the woman, whose identity has not been released, habitually slept.

Locals said she was known as Violet and eked out a living by recycling cans.

They described her as sweet-natured and never wanting to bother anyone. She had turned down offers of help and efforts to get her into a shelter.

If convicted, Petillo could face a maximum sentence of life in state prison. It is unknown whether he has retained an attorney.

The incident was at least the third in Los Angeles County since October in which people were set on fire.

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