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Ex-con wanted for allegedly ambushing 62-year-old woman, setting her on fire

Posted at 5:42 PM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-12 08:01:06-05

REDFORD, Mich. (WXYZ) — "She didn't deserve it. She doesn't even look the same," said Brian Morrissey about his mother who is hospitalized in critical condition with burns to over 40% of her body.

Dorothy Spinella was ambushed Saturday night in the back of the Redford Coney Island on 7 Mile Road at Beech Daly where she works.

Spinella was leaving work through the back door when William Helmer, 62, allegedly set her on fire by first dousing her with some sort of flammable fluid.

Redford Police tell 7 Action News that Helmer, who is known as "Rusty," is their prime suspect and they are hoping for the public's help on where they can find him.

Spinella's family and friends say recently Helmer had been threatening to kill her.

Helmer has a criminal history that dates back to the 1970s and includes manslaughter, assault and prison escape. He was released from prison in May 2017 and discharged from parole in May 2018.

Spinella's son says about a year ago she rented space in Helmer's home for about three weeks.

It's unknown if the two dated. Some of Spinella's co-workers said Helmer gave her a ride home several times.

"She's still very critical," Morrissey said. "She can either pass or survive. It's totally up to her body right now."

Morrissey has set up a GoFundMe account to help his mother who remains hospitalized in an induced coma.

Anyone with information on William Helmer's whereabouts is urged to contact Redford Police.