EXCLUSIVE: Connecticut mother defends her son, 8, against claims he set neighbor friend on fire with flaming tennis ball: Victim's family uses $600,000 GoFundMe money to move to brand new home
- Stefano Giacobbe, 8, said he was playing with Dominick Krankall, 6, in the backyard of the Bridgeport property where both boys lived when the younger child was injured on April 24
- Dominick suffered second and third-degree burns and spent three weeks in the hospital. He has since been discharged and is at home where he is recovering
- Surveillance footage of the incident was released after police found there was no wrongdoing, and it shows the group of boys dousing a soccer ball with gasoline, setting it ablaze, and then kicking it around the yard
- Stefano, who was publicy accused of bullying the six-year-old, denies ever throwing a ball at the child's face and said he was devastated that his group of friends had now shunned him
- Meanwhile Krankall's mother, Maria Rua, doubled down on her claim that Stefano had been bullying her boy and smacked him with the burning ball
- Rua, who went public with her son's injuries, started raising donations on GoFundMe after the incident, collecting nearly $600,000
- She said the money was used to buy a new home for her family. The sale of the home is set to close next week
A Connecticut boy sobbed as he denied dousing a ball in gasoline and throwing it at his six-year-old neighbor, who he is accused of bullying.
Stefano Giacobbe, 8, said he was playing with Dominick Krankall, 6, in the backyard of the Bridgeport property where both boys lived when the younger child was injured on April 24. He suffered second and third-degree burns and spent weeks in the hospital but has been making a quick recovery.
Surveillance footage of the incident shows the boys playing with a soccer ball and a can of gasoline. At one point, both boys are off camera and Krankall later appears back in the frame with his face and hair on fire. It's unclear what happened when the boys were out of the frame.
The video was released after police found no wrongdoing. It shows the group of boys dousing a soccer ball with gasoline, setting it ablaze, and then kicking it around the yard.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Stefano, who was publicy accused of bullying the six-year-old, denied ever throwing a ball at the child's face and said he was devastated that his group of friends had now shunned him.
Meanwhile Krankall's mother, Maria Rua, doubled down on her claim that Stefano had been bullying her boy and smacked him with the burning ball. She and her son had been living on the same property, which is owned by Giacobbe's grandmother.
Shortly after the incident, Dominick's sister, Kayla Deegan, 20, started a GoFundMe to help the family pay for her brother's medical bills - which have since been covered by insurance. The campaign raised about $600,000 and Rua said that the money has been used to buy a new home for her family. The sale of the home is set to close next week.
Rua told DailyMail.com that the family was forced to move out to a hotel after the incident. She claimed that once the family had moved to the hotel, she started receiving death threats and she was forced to relocate again, this time to a relative's home, because she feared for her family's safety.
She has since been questioned about raising the funds, and said that she has refunded at least $1,000 to people who wanted their money back.
'I don't have access to the money,' she said. 'This is Dominick's money. He is the one who went through this.'
A spokesperson from GoFundMe would not reveal how many people have requested a refund, saying they were ' unable to comment on active investigatons.'
'Our hearts go out to Dominick as he continues to recover,' the spokesperson said.
Stefano Giacabbe, eight, (pictured with his mother, Laura Giacobbe). Stefano was accused of bullying his six-year-old neighbor and burst into tears as he denied dousing a ball in gasoline and throwing it at the alleged victim
Stefano Giacobbe (pictured) claimed he and Dominick Krankall were playing in the backyard during the incident on April 24. He claimed the six-year-old lit a cup on fire, stomped on it, and the gasoline splashed into his face, causing the fire
Meanwhile Krankall's mother Maria Rua (pictured together) doubled down her claim Stefano had been bullying her boy and smacked him with the burning ball. Her son, Dominick is still traumatized by the horrifying ordeal he experienced
Rua shared photos of her son with the DailyMail.com when he was in the burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital. He was covered with massive bandages from second and third degree burns he endured and could barely eat or drink or open his eyes
The fallout started on April 24 when Stefano was accused of setting light to a ball and putting it in Dominick's face which set him on fire
Dominick's sister Kayla Deegan, 20, started a GoFundMe to help the family pay for her little brother's mounting medical bills. At the time she was unaware that insurance covered injuries. Deegan, who has been transparent throughout her brother's ordeal, has posted regular updates on his progress. This week she wrote on the fundraising page that if anyone did not believe that their family's story that she would return the donation they made. Some people did ask for their donations back, Rua said
The fallout started on April 24 when Stefano was accused of dousing a ball in gasoline, setting it on fire and throwing it in Dominick's face. Originally it appeared the youngster had been set on fire by the tennis ball - but surveillance footage later emerged that seemed to contradict this as both boys were seen playing with a soccer ball.
On Wednesday afternoon, Stefano's mother Laura Giacobbe, 45, gave DailyMail.com a walk through the backyard of her house where the incident happened.
'As you walk outside this is our backyard where the children were at play. This is where the gas was on the ground which Dominick did light on fire,' she said.
'As Dominick was standing here they were all lighting different things on fire. Dominick turned his back. There is a spot right here.'
Giacobbe said: 'Where were you [Maria] at the time that they were kicking a ball around in the backyard? You never came downstairs. Just admit it Maria Rua you are wrong! You are wrong! It's done. You are a liar!'
She added: 'He [Stefano] is hurting now. You put him all over the world and he is not a bully and I am not going to let you you use my son all over the world as a bully.
'I want it cleared. I think [Maria] wes him an apology. You and your family, as well as the Mayor owe him an apology.'
She explained that her son had lost his friends since the fallout which had left him devastated. She said: 'He lost friends that were very close to him. He loved him like they were his own brother.'
'He lost a friend that he really cared for,' Giacobbe said as she held back tears. 'She put it out there that he was a bully and my son is not a bully,'
Stefano started crying as he explained to DailyMail.com that some time after the incident, he went down the block to play with some kids he knows, and they told him: 'Get away from the house... don't light me on fire.'
He claimed that during the incident where Dominick was injured that there was a cup on fire on the floor, and the six-year-old ran up and stomped on it.
'Me and my brother and his brother told him not to step on it. He ran over and jumped on it and stomped on it and it exploded,' Stefano said.
Stefano said that at that point, the gasoline splashed onto Dominick's face and he was lit on fire.
When Stefano's mother asked her son 'how did you feel when that happened to Dominick,' Stefano replied: 'Sad.'
His mother then asked him: 'Can you show me exactly where the cup was?' Stefano pointed to an area on the ground that showed a slight circle.
On Wednesday afternoon, Stafano's mother Laura, 45, gave DailyMail.com a walk through the backyard of her house where the April 24 incident happened
When Stefano's mother asked her son 'how did you feel when that happened to Dominick,' Stefano replied: 'Sad'
Dominick's mother, Maria Rua sent DailyMail.com a photo of a burnt tennis ball which she claims was thrown at her son's face. She said the ball was taken by the Bridgeport Police Department as evidence
Dominick (pictured) suffered second and third-degree burns and spent weeks in the burn center at Bridgeport Hospital. He has been making a quick recovery but has many restrictions including, staying out of direct sunlight and spending more time indoors which, his mother said, is one of the toughest things since her son loves to go fishing and be in the outdoors
Dominick is pictured with his father Aaron having a piggy back ride and trying to lift his spirits in hospital after the incident
Despite the denials by the Giacobbe's, in a separate interview with DailyMail.com, Maria Rua slammed their claims and doubled down on her insistance that her son had been targeted by Stefano, who she branded a bully.
She said: 'Everyone is saying me and my family are liars. This is Dominick's story this is what happened to him and I was not aware of what exactly happened until we got to the hospital.
'Dominick said a tennis ball was thrown at his face that was lit on fire by Stefano. No one can see that because it is the the part of the video you don't see and don't see it happen because it is not in camera's view.'
'Dominick told me that Lorenzo, Stefano's older brother, tried to help him by putting out the flames on his face and clothing.
'The video doesn't show what is happening in that corner of the yard. The video doesn't show the entire story.'
She told DailyMail.com her son ran into their home screaming, 'Mommy, they lit me on fire'', his legs were still smoking and his face was bright red.'
She explained that while her fiancee Aaron rushed Dominick to the bathtub she called 911.
As she was on the phone, she said Stefano's mother walked into her home and that is when she confronted her and said: 'Your kids set my son on fire.' Giaccobe is said to have replied: 'Your son did this to himself... my kids were inside playing video games.'
After the disturbing encounter, Rua said an ambulance rushed her son with his father to the burns unit at Bridgeport Hospital.
She said he was not able to go because police had handcuffed her and put her in the back of their police vehicle.
'They told me I wasn't under arrest but they were just detaining me. It was only about 15 minutes but I just wanted to be with my son,' she said.
'I just wanted to be with my son. I told them to take me to the hospital in handcuffs. I just wanted to get to the hospital,' she said.
In a separate interview with DailyMail.com, Maria hit back at Laura's claims and doubled down her son was targeted by Stefano who she again branded a bully. The photo was taken on Wednesday is Maria Rue, next to her fiancee, Aaron Krankall and their six-year-old son Dominick Krankall in the center
She said: 'Everyone is saying me and my family are liars. This is Dominick's story this is what happened to him and I was not aware of what exactly happened until we got to the hospital'
Rua said a police K-9 later found the shirt Stefano had worn during the incident in a residential garbage can.
She also sent DailyMail.com a tennis ball which she claims was thrown in her son's face, and said that police seized the ball as evidence.
Dominick spent three weeks in hospital where he was treated for his burns, and has since been discharged and is home and 'healing and in good spirits'. He will also likely also have to spend more time indoors this summer due to his injuries.
'That is one of the toughest things,' she said. 'He wants to be outside and play but he has new skin growing in and he cannot be in direct sunlight.'
DailyMail.com were shown around the backyard in the Bridgeport, Connecticut home of Lauren and Stefano Giaccobe on Wednesday afternoon where the shocking incident occurred
Another photo shows the back garden of the house in Connecticut where the youngster was burned as mystery still surrounds how it happened
Earlier this week doubt was cast on Maria's version of events when backyard video footage emerged showing the incident
The video was released after police concluded there was no wrongdoing in the case, and shows the group of boys dousing a soccer ball with gasoline, setting it ablaze, and then kicking it around the yard. The disturbing graphic images shows a photo of Dominick Krankall to the left as his face and head were surrounded by red flames. On the right is Lorenzo Giacobbe, 11, Stefano's older brother who tried to help Dominick when he was burning and overcome by flames
Giaccobe stands by the video and says it proves that the bullying claims were a fabrication while Maria claims it does not show the full sequence of events. 'The video doesn't show the entire story,' she told DailyMail.com
Rua said the family have bought a new home, using donations made to GoFundMe.
'Dominick is so excited to have his own home. A backyard to play in and he wants to share a bedroom with his three-year-old brother. He is literally counting down the days.'
She would not disclose the location of the new home over fears for her family's safety, but said that it was still in Connecticut and it is in a new school district.
Giacobbe said that the funds raised on GoFundMe should be given to a charity, and claimed that Rua had 'used her child for financial gain'.
'She needed a home to live in. She wanted to move into a home. She made that statement. She used my child to use him as a bully. We are very upset,' she said.
When DailyMail.com contacted GoFundMe to find out the number of refunds and actual amount that was reimbursed, a GoFundMe spokesperson said they were unable to 'comment on active investigatons.'
'Our hearts go out to Dominick as he continues to recover,' the GoFundMe spokesperson said.
'The most important thing to us is protecting the kindness of our community by protecting their donations through the GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.'
Anyone who donated to Rua's GoFundMe can also receive a refund if they want their money back.