• Witness describes moment woman set on fire at Golden Corral


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville woman is in critical condition after being lit on fire in the middle of a Golden Corral restaurant where she works.

    Officers said a man whom the victim knew walked into the Golden Corral on Memorial Park Road, not far from Normandy Boulevard, around 5 p.m. Wednesday, doused her with some type of flammable fluid, set her on fire and calmly walked out to wait for police.

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    “You know how people usually say (I see something) every time I close my eyes? I don't even have to close my eyes, and I just see it, and it's just terrible. It's horrible,” said witness Grace Cooks.

    Cooks said she and her 9-year-old son were inside the packed restaurant when the incident happened.

    “A man came in, poured gasoline on a woman's head, she's a worker there, and he lit her on fire,” Cooks said. “She tried to run around the counter and when she was going around he lit her from the back.”

    The witness told Action News Jax that the employee and the man exchanged words before he came back and attacked her.

    Patrons and employees tried to put the fire out. Others apprehended the man, who Cooks said was armed with a butcher knife.

    Cooks said no one else was injured.

    “She was burned very, very badly,” Cooks said. “I was, like, right there -- me and my son, front and center. I can't get that image out my head. It was crazy. (She was burned) everywhere. Her skin came off; her hair was gone. It was really bad. She was in so much pain.”

    Cooks estimates that the victim was on fire for about two to three minutes. 

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    The victim, Carol Demmons, 56, is at UF Health in Gainesville for treatment.

    Cooks said Demmons was talking before being taken to the hospital. 

    Police believe that the incident was domestic related, but have not provided further information on the investigation.

    The suspect was found sitting on a curb next to the restaurant. The suspect, 58-year-old Darryl Tyrone Whipple, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, officers said.

    A sign posted on the restaurant said it would open at 10:30 a.m. Thursday due to maintenance. 

    Action News Jax is following the story. Watch Action News Jax and follow us on Twitter @ActionNewsJax for the latest. 

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