‘Lit him on fire on purpose:’ Mom says neighbor boy doused 7-year-old son in nail polish remover

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Vibrant, fun-loving and compassionate are words Ashley Lyons uses to describe her 7-year-old son Julien, but a recent attack has left her little boy nearly unrecognizable.

“I had received a call when I got to court that my son was being rushed to Children's Mercy Hospital from a child drowning my son in fingernail polish remover and lit him on fire on purpose," Lyons told WDAF.

When she arrived, doctors told her the extent of Julien's injuries.

“The burns were so bad that they had to go in immediately and do surgery -- that they had to scrape his face and all of his skin,” said Lyons.

Doctors said Julien’s internal organs were also impacted.

“We really don't know, because he inhaled the flames -- that the smoke deteriorated inside his nostrils. It will take three to six months to find out if the lungs could still collapse -- if we're going to have to do skin grafts,” said Lyons.

Lyons told WDAF the attack happened Aug. 6 at the Hawthorne Place Apartment Complex in Independence. The 8-year old boy who attacked her son also lives at Hawthorne Place.

“It's got the highest crime rate in Independence. Unfortunately, they're not doing nothing to help the families with security and making sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe in their own homes,” said Lyons.

According to WDAF, this spring, Independence police took measures to address crime at the complex, such as adding two off-duty officers to staff the complex and adding more security cameras.

Lyons said it hasn't helped.

“There's no safety boundaries. There's no inspections. There's no doing what they're supposed to be doing for HUD regulations,” she said.

"There is nothing from this isolated incident that I believe is indicative of crime in the apartment complex. IPD has two officers assigned full-time to work in the Hawthorne Place Apartments and additional officers are assigned to the complex during other hours when those two officers are not there (seven days a week coverage). Our officers have a great working relationship with both management at the complex and the citizens who live there. They’ve made great strides in working together to both prevent crime and address issues when they arise. Officers assigned to Hawthorne have told me they have definitely seen a reduction in crime and calls for service since implementing those efforts," said Independence Police spokesman John Syme.

Four days after the attack, Lyons said Julien was doing better than expected, but has a long road of recovery ahead.

“For the rest of his life. [Doctors are] talking anywhere from two to three years just getting the skin growth back on his skin. That's not including the pigment or the color of his skin,” she said.

As she prepares for the next steps in her son's recovery, Lyons said she's worried about how to keep her son safe if she has to return to the place where it happened.

“The hospital is trying to release him soon, and we're coming up with a home plan, but there's no home plan. This is not safe,” said Lyons.

Managers of Hawthorne Place said they aren’t aware of the incident.

Lyons has set up a Go Fund Me page to help with Julien’s medical bills and moving costs to get her family out of this apartment and into safer housing.

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