David Morgan is escorted to his seat during his first trial, in February, at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett.

New trial starts for man accused of setting ex-wife on fire

EVERETT — A new trial is under way for a Lynnwood man accused of beating his ex-wife and setting her on fire to cover up the attack.

Jury selection wrapped up Wednesday with lawyers giving opening statements in the afternoon. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

This is the second attempt to prosecute David Morgan, 56, for attempted first-degree murder, assault and arson.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joseph Wilson granted the defense’s motion for a mistrial last month after a witness testified that he believed the fire at Morgan’s house was intentionally set.

Public defender Donald Wackerman argued that the investigator’s opinion hadn’t been disclosed to the defense before trial. Prosecutors had told Wackerman that fire investigators planned to testify that they couldn’t determine how the blaze was set. They couldn’t find an accidental cause and arson couldn’t be ruled out.

Wackerman accused Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern of deliberately trying to surprise the defense.

Stern attributed the testimony to his own mistake. He hadn’t intended to offer the investigator’s opinion at trial.

“The court should not wrongly attribute to malice what is truly due to stupidity,” he wrote in an affidavit.

Wilson declined to dismiss the charges against Morgan and granted a new trial. The judge said he would consider sanctions against prosecutors at a later date.

Morgan has denied beating Brenda Welch, 46, or starting a fire on Nov. 16, 2014. He told detectives that he fell asleep watching TV and woke up to an unknown assailant hitting him in the head. He told detectives he saw his ex-wife was on fire and attempted to help her remove her burning sweater.

Morgan said he crawled out of the house and thought Welch was behind him.

Firefighters found the unconscious woman in the garage. Her skull was fractured and her upper body was burned. Paramedics reported that she reeked of gasoline.

Welch has no memory of the attack.

She had planned to pick up the couple’s 6-year-old daughter at Morgan’s house.

Morgan had dropped the girl off at his mother’s house earlier that day. His car was packed with family keepsakes, photographs and income tax returns.

Prosecutors allege that Morgan planned to kill his ex-wife so he didn’t have to pay her child support or part of his Boeing pension.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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