A Golden Corral employee, who was later identified as Carol Renee Demmons, 56, in Jacksonville, Florida, was hospitalized Wednesday after a man entered the restaurant, doused her with a flammable fluid and set her on fire, according to Click 2 Houston.
At around 5 p.m. on October 12, an arrest report indicated that 58-year-old Darryl Tyrone Whipple walked inside of a packed Golden Corral restaurant on “Memorial Park Road, not far from Normandy Boulevard” and doused Demmons, who was behind the dessert counter, with a flammable fluid.
Demmons reportedly tried to run from her assailant, who officials say was her boyfriend, but he managed to set her on fire before he calmly walked out of the restaurant.
Emergency responders were called to the Golden Corral restaurant and Demmons was airlifted to the UF Health Shands Hospital Burn Unit in Gainesville, where she was listed in critical condition.
Doctors say the victim suffered burns on more than 70 percent of her body.
Grace Cooks, who witnessed the incident along with her 9-year-old son, commented on the crime.
“You know how people usually say, I see something every time I close my eyes? I don’t even have to close my eyes, and I just see it, and it’s just terrible. It’s horrible.
“A man came in, poured gasoline on a woman’s head, she’s a worker there, and he lit her on fire. She tried to run around the counter and when she was going around he lit her from the back.
“She was burned very, very badly. She was an African-American lady. You couldn’t even tell she was African-American anymore. It was very bad. The only thing I’m thinking, this is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s mother, her sister. That could have been one of my loved ones.
“I was, like, right there — me and my son, front and center. I can’t get that image out of my head. It was crazy. She was burned everywhere. Her skin came off; her hair was gone. It was really bad. She was in so much pain.”
“I just started praying immediately, because I couldn’t believe what I had just seen,” Cooks added. “I was like, what could she have done so bad that would make someone do that?”
The incident was captured on surveillance footage and Sgt. Jay Farhat stated that “watching it on video is pretty graphic. It was worse than what we expected. Based on what we’re seeing, we’re charging him.”
Duval county police officials are considering the attack a “domestic violence incident” but they have yet to uncover a motive.
According to News 4 Jax, police say Whipple was found sitting on a curb near the Golden Corral restaurant. When he was approached by police, “he stood up and placed his hands behind his back.”
Whipple was arrested at the scene and charged with “attempted murder, battery, and criminal mischief or interruption of a business.”
After the tragic incident, a spokesperson for the Golden Corral franchise released a statement Wednesday.
“An employee at our Memorial Park road location in Jacksonville, Florida was tragically attacked today by an individual known to the employee and not affiliated with our company.
“We are cooperating fully with the authorities regarding their investigation into this matter. Our thoughts and prayers are with the employee and her family at this time.”
Relatives have since set up a Go Fund Me account for Demmons in hopes of raising $5,500 in donations to help pay for medical treatment after she was set on fire while working at the Golden Corral Restaurant.
According to the site, “she has been placed in an induced coma and is fighting for her life.”
Whipple is being held at the county jail without bail.
He made his first court appearance Thursday and is scheduled to return to court November 1.
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