October 9, 2008
Los Angeles, California
Benjamin Martin (30) burns John McGraham alive with gasoline and a road flare

McGraham (55) had been homeless for two decades. While his family often visited and offered assistance to move him from the streets and help him receive treatment for his depression, McGraham always refused.

Martin had been employed as a barber at a barber shop, and reportedly had no tolerance for homeless people loitering in front of the business. One former co-worker later told police Martin would often scare people from the front of the business by shouting at or hitting them. One such incident involved McGraham, whom Martin hit with a bag of towels and kicked in the back. A customer witnessed the assault and brought the issue to the barber shop’s owner. Martin was fired as a direct result of the altercation.

Three months after Martin was fired, he tracked down McGraham, doused him with gasoline, and set him on fire with an emergency road flare. Although bystanders attempted to extinguish the flames as Martin fled, McGraham was burned over 90% of his body and died as a result.

Martin was arrested after he was linked to the scene by DNA from a pair of gloves left behind, and witnesses identified him as McGraham’s killer. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Benjamin Martin
John McGraham in a portrait held by his niece Haley Graham Paisley, via The Baltimore Sun

“Man gets life in prison for murdering homeless man by setting him on fire.” KPCC. April 28, 2010. Accessed: October 9, 2019. https://www.scpr.org/news/2010/04/28/14589/man-gets-life-prison-murdering-homeless-man-settin/
“Life in prison without parole for barber who set homeless man on fire.” Los Angeles Times. April 28, 2010. Accessed: October 9, 2019. https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/04/man-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-without-parole-for-setting-homeless-man-on-fire.html
“Los Angeles Barber Arrested for Allegedly Burning Homeless Man to Death.” Fox News. January 23, 2009. Updated: March 25, 2015. Accessed: October 9, 2019. https://www.foxnews.com/story/los-angeles-barber-arrested-for-allegedly-burning-homeless-man-to-death.amp

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