ROCHESTER, NY – Two Rochester teens have had the charges against them upgraded to murder after a lonely mentally ill man they allegedly set on fire last week succumbed to his horrific injuries on Tuesday, police say.
The teens were originally charged with first-degree assault and second-degree arson after allegedly entering the apartment of 53 year-old Steven Amenhauser on Friday, pouring a flammable liquid on him while he was seated in a chair, and then “intentionally” setting him on fire, reports say.
The alleged attack took place at 12:30 p.m., according to police, approximately five minutes after the victim had returned from a corner store.
The Published Reporter is not identifying the suspects because they are minors.
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While engulfed in flames, Amenhauser ran out of his apartment and into the street, where bystanders assisted him by putting out the fire and performing first aid until he was taken to the burn unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center; Amenhauser passed away from his injuries just after 4 a.m. Tuesday, having suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70 percent of his body, officials say.
As a result of Amenhauser’s death, the charges against the boys – who were placed under arrest at the scene and initially gave authorities false names – have been upgraded to second-degree murder, according to police.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino noted that Amenhauser had no living family members. The victim was originally adopted and was raised in Texas; lived alone in his Rochester apartment after his wife had passed away years ago and his long-time girlfriend passed away in October.
Reports indicate that Amenhauser was mentally ill and in declining health and that he had no prior relationship with the suspects in his murder. Police have ruled out drugs as a motive, but have not ruled out potential gang activity and would not comment any further on a potential motive when asked if Umbrino was prepared to say why the incident took place, saying “I don’t think anyone is prepared to say why this happened”.
One of the suspects, in a virtual court appearance on Wednesday, blurted out “I didn’t kill him” in regards to Amenhauser’s death, despite the fact police say that he had already admitted to the act at the scene and again in a written statement after both he and his mother waived his Miranda rights to an attorney. Authorities report that the other suspect also admitted to the act at the scene. Both suspects have histories of criminal behavior, including armed robbery and vehicle theft.
Officials say that, due to the Raise the Age Law – which, passed in 2019, the age of criminal responsibility was raised to 18 years-old – neither of the suspects will be charged as adults in this case.