Two young gay metro Atlanta men are recovering from serious burns after they were attacked by a disgruntled family friend who poured boiling water on them as they slept.
The attack caused second- and third-degree burns on the necks, backs and arms of Anthony Gooden, 23, and Marquez Tolbert, 21, and sent them to Grady Memorial Hospital. Tolbert was hospitalized for 10 days after the incident and Gooden was released on Friday, some five weeks after the Feb. 12 incident.
"We woke up to boiling hot water," Tolbert said. "I started screaming uncontrollably and I was pulled out of the house. We ran to the neighbors and called the police."
"We were just burning. My body was just stinging. It was like a really, really severe kind of stinging. I could hardly think straight," Tolbert added.
Tolbert (top photo) said that he and Gooden left work at a nearby warehouse at about 7 a.m. on Feb. 12 and went to the Alexandria Landing apartment in College Park where Gooden lived with his mom. The two regularly spent time at the apartment and often slept there overnight during the nearly six weeks they dated.
They were asleep on a mattress in the living room when Martin Luther Blackwell, 48, arrived. Blackwell was dating Gooden's mom but didn't live at the apartment. He spotted the two men asleep and attacked them, according to an incident report from the College Park Police Department.
Blackwell allegedly told police that he couldn't stand to see the two men sleeping together.
"They was stuck together like two hot dogs, so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out," Blackwell told investigators. "They was stuck like two hot dogs. They'll be alright, it was just a little hot water."
Police arrested Blackwell (bottom photos) on two counts of aggravated battery. He remains in the Fulton County Jail without bond.
Tolbert said that prior to the attack, Blackwell seemed to get along with him and Gooden. A few days before the incident, Tolbert even drove Blackwell to a nearby Lowe's for some supplies, he said.
"He seemed like a normal person. I had no idea anything like this would happen at all. This caught me completely by surprise. I didn't know what was going on and I couldn't believe the pain I was feeling at the time," Tolbert said.
Tolbert said he's glad to see that Blackwell is being held in jail without bond.
"I wouldn't have felt very safe to know that he is out in the streets awaiting trial," Tolbert said.
'I am taking it day by day'
A family friend of Tolbert's launched a Go Fund Me campaign after the attack to help raise funds to pay for medical expenses. Some 45 people have donated $1,280 to Marquez's Burn Recovery Fund since it was created on Feb. 28. Organizers hope to raise $30,000.
I have watched Marquez's mother suffer right along with him. When he came out to her, she told me that her son being harmed was her greatest fear. It's a shame that our society places that kind on fear in a parent's heart. It gives you a feeling of helplessness, and when it actually occurs, you lose hope. Marquez is home now, but has a long road to recovery. Through it all, he has remained strong and not disheartened by what has happened to him. I am so impressed by his character. He has been focused on healing, and in a way, has been holding up his mother.
The family needs immediate help with medical bills, and the everyday expenses of recovery such as prescription drugs and dressings for the burns. I and the family will be so grateful for any donation your heart compels you to give.
All donated funds will be used for medical bills, prescriptions, supplies, and everyday expenses such as rent and utilities. Marquez assisted his mother with home expenses. He had just started a new job, so he doesn't have work benefits.
Tolbert said he's thankful for the donations and help from others.
"It gives you that feeling that not everybody in the world is bad. I am just glad there are people out there that care enough that they want to help," he said.
With his recovery slowly progressing, Tolbert said he hoped to eventually return to work. The constant pain has given way to severe itching across the injured parts of his body.
"I'm still recovering but I am moving a lot more normally at this point. I don't know if I'm OK to go back to work yet but I am recovering quite nicely considering," he said.
"At this point, I am taking it day by day. I am getting a plan together because I want to go back to school. This incident has opened a couple of doors in my head for me. I have been thinking about the medical field and public speaking and helping those who have been through similar situations. Not everybody recovers as quickly as I do mentally and emotionally. I feel I could help somebody," Tolbert added.