Farmington Hills man charged after woman set on fire as she left work

62-year-old woman attacked outside restaurant

William Helmer (WDIV)

REDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A Farmington Hills man is charged with assault with intent to murder after a 62-year-old woman was set on fire Saturday outside a Coney Island restaurant in Redford Township.

It was 8:07 p.m. Saturday when witnesses flagged down a Redford Township police officer near the restaurant in the 25800 block of 7 Mile Road, authorities said. The woman was on the ground emitting smoke. She had suffered severe burns to her body. She was able to speak briefly before medics transported her to a local hospital for treatment, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Prosecutor’s Office said William Gary Helmer, 63, was acquainted with the victim, who is also a Farmington Hills resident. With help from the public, police were able to identify and find Helmer.

Helmer, also known as “Rusty,” was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshal Task Force on Tuesday. He is charged with one count of assault with intent to murder and aggravated assault. He was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in 17th District Court in Redford Township.

Victim’s son speaks out

The victim has been identified as Dorothy Spinella. She had finished her shift at Redford Coney Island at 7 Mile Road and Beech Daly when she was attacked.

“This Rusty guy put my mom in critical and tried to murder her with fire,” Spinella’s son, Bryan Morrissey said.

Her son is angry and heartbroken about what happened to his mother.

“She’s in critical condition. Her body could even shut down or keep going, it’s up to her right now,” Morrissey said.

Spinella has severe burns on about 40 percent of her body. Morrissey said those injuries will be rough to recover from.

“When she does pull through, it’s going to be a lot of rehabilitation. I’m going to try to keep her burns from discouraging my mother,” Morrissey said.

It’s unclear why Spinella was targeted. Police did say the two may have been acquaintances in the past.

“He’s a 20 year plus convict. He’s killed people inside. He’s killed people outside of the prison. He’s escaped Jackson prison once in the ’80s. So why is the Department of Corrections allowing this monster to be out on the street?” Morrissey said.

Spinella’s son’s main priority is seeing his mother back on her feet.

“Everybody send as many prayers as you can for her she’s going to need them,” Morrissey said.

If you would like to help Spinella’s family, click here.

Watch previous report:

Police say career criminal set woman on fire in Redford

About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.