Woman who was set on fire dies, detectives seek capital murder charge for ex-boyfriend

The woman set on fire is dead. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says 49-year-old Deborah Diane Prater died just after midnight, early Tuesday morning.

Now, detectives want Michael Kennedy charged with capital murder. Kennedy is accused of pouring gasoline on prater, his ex-girlfriend, and setting her on fire after an argument.

Upgrading the charge to capital murder puts the death penalty on the table for Kennedy, and also the possibility of life in prison without parole. Chief deputy Randy Christian believes both should be options for jurors in this case.

"This is just a senseless, tragic, horrific murder that never should have happened," said Christian.

49 year old Deborah Prater's ex-boyfriend is accused of setting her on fire at her house Sunday afternoon.

"Her entire upper body- he poured the gasoline from the top of her head on down and struck a match and caught her on fire and like the coward he is, he fled the scene until he was captured a few days later," said Christian.

She died at the hospital early Tuesday morning.

Now, officers want to upgrade charges for 48-year-old Michael Kennedy.

"First thing this morning, the detective working that case made plans to visit with the district attorney today to try to get those charges upgraded to capital murder," explained Christian.

Christian says officers have been called out to the house on a few previous domestic violence issues with Kennedy over the past couple years.

In 1987, Kennedy was charged with rape and sodomy, but not prosecuted.

"It's sickening that someone like that still had their freedom," expressed Christian. "I think it's a real failure somewhere along the line in our court system, in our justice system. This seems to me like there were ample opportunities to keep this guy locked up. And, that didn't happen. Sadly, the end result of that is this woman paid for it with her life. I'm sure it will happen this time. I can't imagine this guy will ever see the light of day again."

ABC 33/40 talked to some of the victim's neighbors today, but they did not want to go on camera. They all described her as a wonderful neighbor, mother and grandmother.