Homeless Person Burned to Death; Update

January 22, 2009


Original Release Dated Oct. 10, 2008

Los Angeles: At about 11:45 this morning in Riverside County (City of Rancho Mirage), detectives from the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division with the assistance from the FBI, made an arrest of a 30-year old male Hispanic, Benjamin Mathew Martin, for the murder of John Robert McGraham.      

The Murder garnered significant media attention both because of the brutal nature of the attack and because the attack occurred without any provocation.  The victim, a chronically homeless person, was totally helpless and lived in common public areas for many years along the 3500 Block of 3rd Street in the LAPD Rampart Area.

Though he was considered “transient” or “homeless,” terms that tend to dehumanize, he could usually be found in a specific area, and his family knew where to find him. Area residents and business people also knew him.

It was on Oct. 9, 2008, at around 9:40 p.m., as John Robert McGraham occupied his usual space in the 3500 block of West 3rd Street, a suspect approached him and doused with an accelerant – probably gasoline.  The suspect then intentionally set the victim on fire and ran from the scene leaving behind a red plastic gasoline container.

McGraham was taken to Los Angeles County Medical Center where he died.  Officially he was listed as a “John Doe,” but very quickly, LAPD detectives learned that he had family, an area of residence and a name.      

During an initial public plea, all that was known about the suspect was that he was a male Hispanic in his mid- to late-20s.  There was no known motive for the killing, and to this day, it remains unclear.  

When his family appeared at a press conference, they provided photos of McGraham that depicted a very sad situation and a man who presented a threat to no one. Fortunately, the news media, reaching millions of people, ran with the story, and America’s Most Wanted television program took the story to the people on a nationwide level.  Through television, print, radio and the Internet, the word got out, and the LAPD received numerous tips and leads.