Near the site of where Violet Phillips was set on fire while she slept at a bus bench, children are collecting money for the homeless woman’s funeral. Trouble is, she’s not dead.
“I am concerned because some children were collecting money this weekend for Violet's ‘funeral’ and they had an official looking collection box,” said Sandra Henry, an accounts receivable manager who lives in Van Nuys.
Others said they saw children as young as 9 and 10 years old collecting money at the site of bus bench in front of the Walgreens at Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way recently to give the woman a proper burial.
However, Rev. Erik Loza, of the First Lutheran Church of Van Nuys, where Phillips attended regularly, said she is not dead and is still at the University of Southern California Burn Unit.
“I tried to see her Monday, but she was in the operating room,” said Loza, who has been collecting money through the church to save for Phillips when she’s back on her feet.
“I had not heard about folks talking donations for Violet's funeral,” the pastor said. “I did see a sign near where the bench was at Sherman Way and Van Nuys, that said ‘Rest in peace.’ I wrote next to those words: ‘Violet is alive!’ and explained she was in the hospital.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the signs saying that Violet was dead were removed and flowers and candles were still in the place where the burned bench once was. The bench has been removed, but burn marks still marr the sidewalk and notes are left on the trees nearby.
The Los Angeles Police is still researching the next-of-kin for the injured woman, and trying to locate a son in Arizona.
Over the past week, a few readers asked Sherman Oaks Patch about the reports of Phillips’ death. Although she suffered burns on her face and third degree burns on other parts of her body, the victim is expected to survive.
Meanwhile, who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, is being held on $500,000 bail.
Police said that collecting money fraudulently is against the law, but have not arrested anyone in connection to this case.
Henry said she thinks she knows some of the children involved in collecting money. “These kids are 9 and 10 years old and wouldn’t be collecting money for something dishonest and I don’t believe their parents would either, so I believe someone else had to put them up to it,” Henry said.
Rev. Loza added, “It's too bad that rumor is going around.”
Donations can come to the church, with checks going made to: “First Lutheran Church-Violet Fund” and sent or dropped off at 6952 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91405.