The boy was on fire.
It was nearly midnight on September 10. Casaree Holmes, 18, and his girlfriend’s little brother, 11-year-old Ar’zjon Carr, had just tossed lit napkins into a gasoline-soaked van under orders from Ar’zjon’s mother, Holmes testified Tuesday.
The van “exploded immediately,” he said. “All I heard was a boom and that’s when we both started running.”
Then Holmes realized Ar’zjon’s chest was on fire.
“He was just screaming and crying,” Holmes said. “He just ran and screamed … don’t let him die.”
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing in Henderson Justice Court for Juanita Carr, 30, who faces one count each of third-degree arson, child abuse and conspiracy to commit arson in the fire that left her son Ar’zjon, now 12, with severe burns on more than 40 percent of his body.
Henderson Justice of the Peace Rodney Burr ruled there was enough evidence to send Carr’s case to District Court. He set an arraignment for Nov. 7.
Burr also raised Carr’s bail from $14,000 to $75,000, citing the seriousness of the charges against her. She remains incarcerated and attended the hearing in navy blue jail scrubs.
Police say Carr had Holmes and Ar’zjon set fire to her van because it wasn’t working properly. Carr also told detectives she was behind on payments for the van. She said she thought the 2000 Chevrolet had been stolen but later learned Holmes and Ar’zjon had taken it for a joy ride.
Holmes testified that the two took the van without permission but it overheated and they left it parked at an apartment complex. Holmes confessed to Carr after she had reported the van stolen.
Carr then decided “that we were going to blow the van up,” Holmes said.
The three drove a relative’s car to retrieve the van, Holmes said. They parked it near Russell Road and Boulder Highway, not far from Sam Boyd Stadium. Then they went to a 7-Eleven, where Juanita bought a gas can. At another store, they got a lighter.
Back at the van, Holmes poured gas through the van’s driver’s side window, with Ar’zjon “right next to me.”
Carr had told Ar’zjon to stay in the other car with her but he didn’t, Holmes said.
“We both threw the (lit) napkins inside” the van, he said.
Holmes “patted out” the fire on Ar’zjon’s chest, they climbed into the car and Carr drove them away, he said. She later called an ambulance. Paramedics met them at a grocery store and took Ar’zjon to the hospital.
Holmes testified in exchange for immunity from prosecution in the case. Speaking in a soft voice, he admitted originally telling police Ar’zjon was burned at a bus stop after “somebody came, threw lighter fluid on him and flicked a cigarette.”
“I was scared,” he said.
Later, after talking to his grandfather, Holmes went to the police station and told a detective what actually happened, he said.
Clark County prosecutors also are seeking to revoke Carr’s probation in another case stemming from April 2011, when she drove two of her daughters to a bus stop and encouraged them to fight their seventh- and eighth-grade Johnston Middle School classmates.
Authorities learned of the fights when a video taken with a cellphone was shown around the children’s school.
Carr pleaded guilty to one count of child neglect on Nov. 30, 2011, but her sentencing was delayed until March 2012. Judge James Bixler ordered her to spend three months in jail and to two years of probation. The sentence also included a suspended 12-month jail term. Her probation revocation is scheduled for Oct. 29.
Carr has had other run-ins with police. In 2005, she was found guilty of misdemeanor attempted theft, and placed on probation. In 2011, she was found guilty of two misdemeanor child endangerment counts and sentenced to parenting classes, which she completed.
The Department of Family Services has kept tabs on Carr’s family since 1999. In the following 13 years, Family Services had 16 referrals alleging neglect or abuse by Carr, the mother of at least five children.
Three of the reports were substantiated and in January 2012 Carr’s 11-year-old son and other family members were found to be in need of protection services but it is unclear if they were removed from her home. The case was closed Aug. 7, a month before the fire.
Contact Lynnette Curtis at LCurtis@reviewjournal.com.