Los Angeles, CA – Benjamin Mathew Martin, 30, was charged Monday with one count of murder with special circumstance allegations of murder by torture and murder by means of lying in wait in connection with the killing of John Robert McGraham, according to Los Angels County Head Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman.

Martin was arrested Thursday on suspicion of setting fire to McGraham, a homeless man, last year in the Westlake district.

McGraham subsequently died from his injuries.

Martin was arrested around 11:45 a.m. in Rancho Mirage in Riverside County and was charged with the murder of the 55-year-old McGraham, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

LAPD Detectives indicated that witness identifications and DNA evidence left behind tied Martin to the killing.

Martin was described as a former barber in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood who disliked the homeless.

“The attack occurred without any apparent provocation,” said LAPD Chief William J. Bratton to news sources. “The victim was totally helpless. The suspect intentionally set the victim on fire and then ran from the scene, leaving a red plastic gasoline container.”

McGraham was in the 3500 block of West Third Street around 9:40 a.m. when he was doused with a flammable liquid, possibly gasoline, and set on fire. Residents and shopkeepers found McGraham with his body aflame and lying on his back in a nearby parking lot. Although efforts were made to extinguish the flames, McGraham burned to death.

Described as a mentally ill homeless man, McGraham, a former bellhop at the Ambassador Hotel, had lived in the Westlake district neighborhood for years and was popular with area residents and business people.

After his death, residents paid homage to McGraham by holding a candlelight vigil. Nearly 300 people attended McGraham’s funeral at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Boulevard.
Police said they have no motive in the case.