Ray Mullen awoke on March 15 in a pure panic. He had fallen asleep on a couch at a friend’s house in Atlantic County, but suddenly found himself ablaze in what police have described as a “prank that went terribly, terribly wrong.”
As Mullen raced outside the house in flames, two men he thought were friends gave chase. They were carrying lighter fluid and Mullen said heard one say “I’ll show you how it’s done, Dave.” They doused him with more lighter fluid and he fought to stop the blaze consuming his body, Mullen said.
Now, Mullen wakes to a nightmare every day. His body is disfigured. He has third-degree burns over 30% of his body. He’s lost 30 pounds and has had multiple skin grafts and blood transfusions. He’s lost feeling and movement in his fingers.
“I’m hoping I start to get better,” Mullen, 27, of Brigantine, told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday in a phone interview. “I’m in so much pain.”
Mullen, with the help of friends, launched a GoFundMe this week to help cover the cost of his extensive medical treatment. The fundraiser includes jarring images of the burns he suffered to his back, arms and legs. Mullen said his mother has taken a leave of absence from her job to help with his care. And on doctor’s orders, Mullen won’t be able to return to his job as an HVAC apprentice for at least a year. His passion for dirt-bike riding is on hold.
And he still doesn’t know why this happened.
In the weeks following the bizarre incident, police charged Brandon Perez, 23, of Hammonton, and David Sult, 24, of Mays Landing, with aggravated arson, aggravated assault and conspiracy. Police said the duo sprayed the lighter fluid on Mullen as he slept on a couch at Sult’s house and ignited the fire. Those charges remain pending.
In the narrative posted with his GoFundMe campaign, Mullen provided more details of the night that changed his life. He said that multiple people looked on as he struggled to put out the blaze and more lighter fluid was sprayed on him. He eventually dropped to the ground and rolled until the fire was out, he said
Even as he tried to leave the house to seek help, he said his attackers “took his car keys and ridiculed him while he begged to return them,” according to his GoFundMe account. They eventually threw the keys at Mullen and he drove 40 minutes in “severe agony, battling physical shock” to his mother’s house, he said. She rushed him to a local hospital, which transferred him to a burn center in Philadelphia.
Mullen said he’s already suffered one blood infection during his recovery that nearly took his life and he remains bed-ridden.
The online fundraiser has generated more than $2,000 in the first two days. Mullen said he has been overwhelmed by the support.
“I’m so grateful,” he said. “I’m really grateful to everybody…I thought nobody cared.”