INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – Vibrant, fun-loving and compassionate are words Ashley Lyons describes her 7-year-old son, but a recent attack has made her little boy nearly unrecognizable, she told WDAF.
Lyons said she received a call saying her son was headed to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City after another child doused him in fingernail polish remover and "lit him on fire, on purpose."
When she arrived, doctors told her the extent of Julien's injuries.
“The burns were so bad that they had to go in immediately and do surgery . . . they had to scrape his face and all of his skin,” Lyons said.
Doctors say Julien’s internal organs were damaged from inhaling fumes and smoke.
“It will take three to six months to find out if the lungs could still collapse, if we're going to have to do skin grafts,” she explained.
The Missouri mother said the attack happened Aug. 6 at the Hawthorne Place Apartment Complex in Independence. The 8-year-old boy who allegedly attacked her son also lives at Hawthorne Place.
“It's got the highest crime rate in Independence," Lyons said. "Unfortunately they're not . . . making sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe in their own homes.”
This spring, Independence police took measures to address crime at the complex, such as adding two off-duty officers to staff the complex and adding more security cameras.
Lyons said it hasn't helped.
“There's no safety boundaries, there's no inspections, there's no doing what they're supposed to be doing for HUD regulations,” she said.
"There is nothing from this isolated incident that I believe is indicative of crime in the apartment complex," Independence Police spokesman John Syme said. "IPD has two officers assigned full-time to work in the Hawthorne Place Apartments and additional officers are assigned to the complex during other hours when those two officers are not there (7 days a week coverage).
Now, four days after the attack, Lyons says Julien is doing better than expected, but has a long road to recovery.
“For the rest of his life. [Doctors are] talking anywhere from 2 to 3 years just getting the skin growth back on his [face]. That's not including the pigment or the color of his skin,” she said.
As she prepares for the next steps in her son's recovery, Lyons said she's worried about how to keep her son safe if she has to return to the place where it happened.
“The hospital is trying to release him soon, and we're coming up with a home plan but there's no home plan. This is not safe,” Lyons said.
Managers of Hawthorne Place say they aren’t aware of the incident.
Lyons has set up a GoFundMe page to help with Julien’s medical bills and moving costs to get her family out of this apartment and into safer housing.
Independence police gave this statement to WDAF:
"Our officers have a great working relationship with both management at the complex and the citizens who live there. They’ve made great strides in working together to both prevent crime and address issues when they arise. Officers assigned to Hawthorne have told me they have definitely seen a reduction in crime and calls for service since implementing those efforts."