Woman set on fire: Attacker's punishment doesn't fit crime

Published:
Updated:

Every day, Bonnie Bowes leaves work and reports to the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, dons protective gown and gloves, to care for her daughter.

Judy Malinowski is 33 years old, herself a mother of two, but requires the kind of care Bonnie gave her as an infant: repositioning her in bed, helping her eat, and doing her best to soothe the unspeakable pain of blisters and burns that cover Judy's body.

Judy mouths to her mother: "I couldn't do it without you," adding, "She's the best mom."

Judy's agonizing journey to this day began on August 2, 2015.

"Somebody just set a woman on fire behind Speedway on Stygler Road," said a caller to 911.

Judy says that someone was her abusive ex-boyfriend, Michael Slager.

Along with her mobility, the fire robbed her of her voice. Burns to her airway prevent her from speaking audibly, but in June, with the help of a speaking valve, Judy was able to share her memories of that terrible day, and the man responsible.

"I'm engulfed in flames, and trying to get the fire out of my face," Judy told freelance writer John Dauphin. "I remember screaming for (Slager) to help me. He was looking at me with this look, and it was so evil. It was the worst look I have ever seen."

"What did she, or myself, or anybody, ever do, that would possess you to do that to her, or any other human being?" asked Bonnie. "What would possess you?"

Michael Slager maintains the fire was an accident, and that he himself was burned trying to save Judy from the flames.

Investigators say they have surveillance video that shows otherwise, and that Slager only tried putting out the fire when other witnesses took notice.

Monday in Franklin County court, he was found guilty of aggravated arson and felonious assault, and given the maximum sentence possible, 11 years in prison.

"The journey is so hard when you think of the sentence, you know?" said Bonnie. "This is my child. This is two little girls' mom, that's been ripped away from (them). Who is going to work for their college education? Who is going to raise them?"

Asked what sentence would be long enough for Slager, Judy answered with one word: "Life."

Bonnie said doctors have prepared them for the reality that Judy likely will not survive.

Somehow, they still find grace, and gratitude.

Judy tells the story of seeing an angel appear before her. Judy mouths: It was amazing. She was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I don't know why she chose me, but I'm grateful.

In her June audio interview, she again expressed remarkable gratitude.

"I am so grateful that I have a life. I know my life quality is not going to as good, but at least I'm alive. And I do thank God for that."

Tuesday, Bonnie told 10tv Judy was relieved and happy that Slager had been convicted.

Prosecutors say if Judy succumbs to her injuries, they are prepared to charge him in her death.

Judy told us she shared her story with us for one reason- to send a message to women in abusive relationships.

In her words: "Get help. Run."

PART 1: "Find Help, Run": Woman set on fire shares message for abused women

PART 2: Woman set on fire: "I want to fight" to live

To help Judy's family with the care of her daughters: https://www.gofundme.com/hope-and-help-for-judy

If you are in an abusive situation, in Columbus, call (614-224-4663).

Resources on what is domestic violence, warning signs, how to stay safe and more: www.choicescolumbus.org.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 http://www.thehotline.org/