ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two Rochester teens charged with murder in connection to a fatal arson case in a Lyell Avenue apartment pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday and are being held on no bail, no release.
The teens discussed their roles in the incident with police in new court paperwork News 8 obtained Wednesday.
Police say 53-year-old Steven Amenhauser was “intentionally” set on fire last Friday in his Lyell Avenue apartment. Amenhauser was being treated at University of Rochester Medical Center’s Kessler Burn & Trauma Center — with second and third degree burns over 70% of his body — before ultimately succumbing to his injuries early Tuesday morning.
Police arrested 16-year-old Zayvion Perry and a 14-year-old Adriel Riley Jr. on Sunday and Monday, respectively, and they were charged with arson and assault. After Amenhauser died Tuesday, their charges were elevated to second degree murder.
According to the felony complaint the teens poured an ignitable liquid on and around Amenhauser, and then used a lighter to set the victim on fire.
The complaint says Perry gave his statements to police after he and his mother waived Miranda rights.
According to the complaint, both suspects spoke with police before Amenhauser died Tuesday.
Both teens were in court Wednesday afternoon. The proceedings were closed to media, but both pleaded not guilty and were held on no bail and no release. The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office is expected to present this case to a grand jury Friday and another court appearance for the teens is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Officials from the district attorney’s office said Tuesday that due to the Raise the Age legislation, Perry will be prosecuted as an adolescent offender and remain in youth part of Superior court. Riley Jr. will be prosecuted as a juvenile offender and his case will remain in youth court.
“Youth Part is a criminal court where adolescent offenders and juvenile offenders remain subject to criminal liability as adults,” officials from the district attorney’s office said. “Neither defendant will be transferred to family court at this time.”
Officials say Perry is being held on $50,000 cash bail, $100,000 secured bond and $150,000 partially secured bond. Riley Jr. is being held no bail, no release.
Both are being held at the Monroe County Children’s Center, a secured facility, officials say.
RPD Capt. Frank Umbrino said during a Tuesday press conference that Amenhauser left his apartment to go to a nearby store before the incident occurred.
“He came back from the store and entered his apartment and about five minutes after he entered his apartment he came out of it on fire,” Umbrino said. “There were people who tried to help, render aid, and put out the fire. RPD and RFD responded and he was taken to the Burn Trauma Unit until he passed away at about four o’clock this morning.”
Umbrino said Amenhauser was a Texas native who had no living relatives. He was living alone in the apartment the crime was committed.
“Steven was doused with a flammable liquid while sitting in the chair of his apartment, then he was intentionally set on fire,” Umbrino said.
Umbrino said the victim was in declining health. He added that he was not related to the two teens who were arrested, but he was familiar with them.
The RPD captain said he couldn’t get into the details of the evidence that led to the arrest, but he said he was confident the two teens who were charged were the ones who committed the crime.
When asked about possible motives, Umbrino said there was nothing to point to about drugs being involved, and he said he couldn’t comment on any potential gang involvement.
“I don’t think anyone is prepared to say why this happened,” Umbrino said.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.