BRADENTON - Teira Fields, 23, is a budding Bradenton writer and college student who is busy trying to publish her first novel, "Dirty Laundry," which, she said, deals with a woman climbing up from adversity.
But Fields, who also attends St. Petersburg Junior College where she is studying to be a teacher, said there won't be a chapter any time soon about the horrific and too-real experience she endured around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
While trying to stand up for her mother who had been struck multiple times in the head by her boyfriend during a domestic dispute, Fields, a 4-foot, 11-inch tall woman, was tackled to the ground by her mother's much larger boyfriend and pushed into a fire, according to a Bradenton Police Department report.
The man, Brandon Jerome Randolph, then went back inside and doused his girlfriend and the interior of the home with gasoline. He threatened to light the gasoline, but instead ran from the home, police said.
Randolph, 25, was arrested in unincorporated Manatee County at 9:45 a.m. Thursday and has been charged with attempted second-degree murder for holding Fields' face close to the fire and aggravated domestic battery for striking Field's mother, according to Capt. William Fowler of the Bradenton Police Department. He also faces charges of attempted arson and aggravated domestic battery.
Detectives say Randolph pressed the left side of Field's face close to burning embers in a fire pit set up on the cement walkway in front of the residence in the 500 block of 12th Street West, Bradenton, where Fields lives with her mother, Detira Coston, and other family members.
The left side of Fields' face was bandaged Thursday so her second-degree burns could heal.
"I thought I would catch fire and die," Fields said. "The doctors think my face will completely heal. But I won't be able to work or go to school for awhile."
The ambitious Fields, who also has sung in the choir of her late grandmother Annie Field's Bradenton church, Gethsemane Baptist, works as a sales person at the Dooney & Bourke store at the Ellenton Prime Outlets besides going to college and writing.
On Thursday, as many members of the Fields and Coston families came to support Fields, Fields' mother spoke passionately about the incident.
"I'm thrilled they caught him," Coston said of Randolph. "Relief has been lifted from my soul."
Coston said she wants the maximum sentence to be given to Randolph.
"The highest allowed," Coston said. "I don't know why he attacked my daughter. I'm flabbergasted this happened. But maybe it's because this is the one of my four children who has been there during all nine years of my relationship with Brandon and she is the one always saying to him, 'You're not gonna do my mom like that.'"
Fields said the dispute started when Randolph got mad over some missing money and punched Coston in the head several times, causing her to bleed. Police said Fields temporarily lost her vision because of the beating.
Coston told Fields to call 911, but when she tried to run outside and do it, Randolph chased her down, took her iPhone and the two struggled.
"When he gets angry, he gets filled with rage," Fields said of Randolph. "He grabbed me and threw me into the fire. He held me down. I could feel it steaming on my face."
Fields said three adults were outside when Randolph pushed her into the fire and none of them tried to help her right away.
"They were probably scared of him," Fields said.
With the help finally of one of the onlookers, Fields escaped and ran to a neighbor's house where she called 911.
"I was burned and bleeding," Fields said.
Coston said what Randolph did to her daughter was not just a crime. It was cruel, she said.
"It was cruel and spineless," Coston said. "She's a female so he's got a point on her right from the start due to gender. This is a small person with a big heart that he did this to."