Man charged with setting woman on fire in Redford appears in court

William Helmer faces judge

REDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – William Helmer is facing serious charges.

He’s accused of setting Dorothy Spinella on fire, burning 40 percent of her body, as she left as she left her Redford Township job in November.

On Tuesday, Helmer appeared briefly in court via video for a probable cause conference. He was acting erratically and asked to represent himself, so the case was adjourned.

You can see video of the proceedings above.

“I think we need to have another conversation, unless you think that’s futile at this point,” the judge said to Helmer’s defense.

“Monster’s do that," said Spinella’s son, Bryan Morrissey.

Dorothy Spinella (WDIV)

Morrissey is in disbelief over what Helmer is accused of doing to his mother.

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

It’s unclear why Spinella was targeted, but Helmer, also known as Rusty, has a long rap sheet.

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

The prosecutor was set to try to convince the judge that Helmer should stay in jail for a while longer.

A preliminary examination is scheduled for Dec. 18, 2019.