In 2015, a Galveston County jury convicted Don Collins of the murder of Robert "Robbie" Middleton. Robbie died in 2011 at age 20 from injuries sustained during a childhood trauma. In 1998, Collins, 13, allegedly molested then 8-year-old Robbie in Splendora, Texas. Weeks later, Collins tied the boy to a tree and burned him in an attempt to conceal the assault. Robbie survived but experienced life-long injuries. He spent most of his life in a children's hospital undergoing hundreds of operations due to the extent of his burns. Although he was resilient, he suffered immensely.
At the time of the attack, Collins was not convicted of any crimes. Almost 13 years later, Robbie - on his deathbed - recorded a video testimony that would finally change the outcome of his case for good and send Collins to jail. When Robbie passed, law enforcement ruled his death a homicide. Collins was then charged and convicted. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, and the Texas Supreme Court has subsequently rejected his appeals.
It had been 13 years since Robbie Middleton's attack, and he had never publicly revealed the full story behind his assault. But in 2011, before he took his last breaths, Robbie disclosed the identity of the person who assaulted him when he was 8 years old.
Robbie filmed a video testimony and shared the name of his attacker as well as the details that would finally allow for an arrest. The assailant, Don Collins, was 13 years old when he caused permanent injuries to Robbie.
The prosecution played clips of the video for jurors during Collins’s 2015 trial, which helped seal a conviction 17 years after the assault.
On June 28, 1990, Robbie Middleton was walking from his home in Splendora, Texas, to a friend’s house. It was his 8th birthday, and he wanted to show his friend his new birthday present. During the walk, Collins attacked Robbie. He tied the boy to a tree on a forest path, covered him in gasoline, and set him ablaze.
Two weeks prior to the incident, Robbie had named Collins as his molester.
It wasn’t until Robbie filmed a video testimony that the attacker’s possible motive was revealed. During the trial, the prosecution maintained Collins set Robbie on fire for a reason: he wanted to silence him. On June 14, just two weeks prior to the attack, Collins allegedly violated Robbie on the same forest trail where he then attacked him.
It was unclear whether Collins's intention was to kill Robbie or not, yet he almost got away the crimes - until Robbie released the 27-minute video.
Collins flung a cup of gasoline on Robbie and ignited a blaze. Robbie was able to escape when the fire melted the fishing line his attacker had used to bind him to the tree. Although much of his body was still on fire, Robbie emerged from the woods and tried to get help.
He ran toward his house but was only able to make it to a street by the edge of the forest before he finally collapsed.