LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — David Rothenberg, who as a boy was severely burned by his father in a custody dispute, has died. He was 42.
Residents of Southern California will remember Rothenberg and the scars he bravely wore after his own father lit him on fire.
In 1983, his father had flown with David from New York to Orange County during a bitter custody fight with David’s mother.
He promised his son he was taking him to all the theme parks — instead, he locked him in a Buena Park motel room, poured lighter fluid (some reports said kerosene) on him and set him on fire.
David survived the horrible attack despite being burned on 90 percent of his body.
The story was captured in the ABC-TV movie “David” in 1988. The movie was based on a book written by David’s mother.
Rothenberg later became close friends with Michael Jackson and spoke at the King of Pop’s funeral.
David became an artist and was professionally known as “Dave Dave”. He was living in Las Vegas at the time of his death.
The Associated Press said Rothenberg died on July 15 at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, according to the Clark County Coroner.
Rothenberg always said the horrific attack didn’t hold him back.
“There is a lot that happens in people’s lives, but that doesn’t define them as a human being, it makes them stronger,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal two years ago.
No cause of death was given. A man calling himself a good friend on Instagram said he died of heat exhaustion.
The Associated Press reported that David’s father — Charles Rothenberg — spent less than seven years of a 13-year sentence behind bars for the attempted murder.
After his release, Rothenberg committed other crimes, including robbery, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2007.