Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman Set Afire; Boyfriend Charged

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman Set Afire; Boyfriend Charged

Article excerpt

Nude and set ablaze, Constance M. Grier crashed through the front window of her boyfriend's Jacksonville home Monday night and ran to the first person she saw -- a woman in a nearby car.

The stunned driver ignored the victim's cries for help and began to drive off. But she said she had a change of heart moments later and returned.

Only then did the driver recognize the critically injured woman as a former high school classmate and know she couldn't leave her side.

The 32-year-old victim -- identified by police as Grier, although police said she has several aliases -- is hospitalized with burns on more than half her body. Her boyfriend, Tyrone Simmons, a career criminal with a history of beating her, was charged with aggravated battery.

As for the driver, the shock of the night's events hadn't worn off by yesterday.

"At first, I thought it was like something in a movie," said the driver, a 33-year-old Jacksonville woman who asked not to be identified to protect her from Grier's boyfriend. "I'd never seen anything like that in my life."

The attack occurred about 7:30 p.m. Monday in Simmons' home in the 1400 block of West 14th St., police said. Grier told witnesses and police she was doused with kerosene during an argument and set on fire with a cigarette lighter. Simmons, who had minor burns, told police Grier set herself on fire.

The driver said she had just pulled up to visit a friend when Grier crashed through the window. She said the victim was nude and burned, but no flames were visible.

"I thought it was a hoax or something," the driver said. "She said, `Help me. Help me.' I didn't want to get involved. I was in shock. I didn't know if the person after her had a gun or what. I drove down the street, but I thought to myself if that was me, I would want someone to help me. So, I turned around and went back. …

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