Feds Investigating Case of Council Grove Man Set On Fire

By: Suzie Gilbert Email
By: Suzie Gilbert Email

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (WIBW) -- The U.S. Attorney's Office is reviewing the case of a man set on fire in Council Grove to determine if it was a hate crime.

A spokesman says U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom has been in contact with Morris County Attorney Laura Allen to discuss the case.

The Topeka chapter of the NAACP says they're also investigating to see if the crime was racially motivated.

Sterling Law was recovering from severe burns on Monday. His brother says Sterling's an easy target not because he's black, but because of his mental illness.

Officials say it happened at 39 Orchard Street in Council Grove. They say Sterling Law, 54, was sitting inside when a neighbor came in, drenched him in rubbing alcohol, and ignited him with a cigarette lighter.

Sterling suffered second degree burns on his hands and lower body.

Council Grove is primarily white, but Sterling's friends say this crime wasn't racially motivated, instead, they say the suspect was taking advantage of Sterling's mental disability. His brother says Sterling's been a simple man since the age of five, when some "mean" neighborhood kids bashed in Sterling's head with a baseball bat.

Doug and Sherri Wilkerson, partial owners of the Hays House Restaurant in Council Grove, where Sterling has worked for decades, say Sterling is a good man and a hard worker. They say there's more to this story than race.

Isaac Wilson, 23, is suspected in the crimes. His listed address is in Arkansas, but officials say he's spent years in Council Grove.

Wilson is charged with aggravated battery and aggravated burglary for the crimes against Sterling. He's also charged with aggravated battery and criminal threat against Andrew Maiden - a white man - for crimes officials say happened on the same night as the crimes against Sterling.

Wilson was in Morris County jail Monday night on $65 thousand bond. A preliminary hearing is set for October 24th.

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