The last thing Angela Simmons remembers before blacking out is telling an ambulance crew that someone had set her on fire.
She doesn’t remember going to The Medical Center of Central Georgia or the two months she spent in a coma at an Augusta burn center, she testified in court Wednesday morning.
Testimony began Wednesday in the trial of Brian Keith Patterson, 31, who is charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in connection with Simmons’ burning on June 19, 2009. The prosecution and defense finished presenting their cases Wednesday. Closing arguments and jury deliberations are scheduled to begin Thursday.
Patterson has maintained that the fire started when Simmons was cleaning a crack pipe in the kitchen with rubbing alcohol, his attorney, Mark Beberman, said during opening statements to the jury. Patterson did not testify during the trial.
Two nurses who treated Simmons at the Medical Center testified that Simmons also said she had burned herself while cleaning a crack pipe. One of the nurses said that although Simmons was alert, she had been given morphine and another painkiller soon after arriving at the hospital and before she was transferred to Augusta.
Simmons testified that Patterson pleaded with her not to “tell on” him before authorities arrived.
Beberman said Patterson’s hands were burned during his attempts to try to put out the fire. A police investigator testified that the burns were on the top of his hands.
Simmons, 48, told jurors that she was in a relationship with Patterson in June 2009 and they were living in a duplex on Mason Street. Early on the morning of June 19, she told Patterson she wanted to go home and live with her mother.
Patterson became angry and said he would set Simmons on fire, Simmons testified.
“I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think it was in him,” she said.
As Simmons got up to leave the living room, Patterson poured rubbing alcohol over her head and ignited it with a lighter, she testified.
Still burning, Simmons ran to a neighbor’s home to get help. She said Patterson tried to extinguish the flames with a sheet and put her in a shower to try and stop the burning.
Simmons admitted she had a drug problem in June 2009 and had been addicted to cocaine for 31 years, but she denied accidentally setting herself on fire.
Macon-Bibb County fire investigator Ben Gleaton testified that the fire started near a mattress on a bed in the living room. He found a cigarette lighter on the bed.
“It’s the only place in the entire house that suffered any type of fire or smoke damage,” Gleaton said.
There was no fire damage to support a claim that the fire started in the kitchen, he said.
A GBI scientist testified that a sample from the mattress contained a trace of rubbing alcohol.
Macon police investigator Shelly Rutherford testified that she found a bottle of rubbing alcohol in the living room. A police crime lab technician testified that he couldn’t find any legible prints on the alcohol bottle that could be compared to a person’s prints.
Rutherford said she didn’t find a crack pipe at the house. She said she didn’t look outside.
The cigarette lighter was not tested for fingerprints, and the mattress was not tested for blood or human tissue, she said.
Rutherford said Patterson lied about his name at the time of the incident. Police later discovered that he had been using his brother’s name.
During her testimony, Simmons showed the jury scars on her face, arms and hands from the fire. She said she also was burned on her back.
John Herndon, an emergency medical technician who went to the scene, said he saw Simmons’ clothing smoldering as she walked to the ambulance.
Although Simmons didn’t name her attacker, she said “he” burned her. She was given morphine on the way to the hospital.
Dr. Joseph Shaver, a physician who treated Simmons at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, said Simmons sustained third-degree burns on between 40 to 45 percent of her body. When she arrived at the center, she was on life support. Before leaving the hospital, she received skin graphs and multiple blood transfusions.
Simmons was released from the hospital in September 2009.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.