EVERETT — Her back is covered in red, angry scars. So is her upper chest, left leg and shoulder. She’s deaf in her right ear and has no senses of smell or taste. The muscles around her eyes give her problems.
Brenda Welch, 46, doesn’t have any memory of how she was so severely injured. She can’t recall driving to her ex-husband’s Lynnwood house to pick up their 6-year-old daughter.
That’s where Lynnwood paramedics found her. She was lying in the garage, and she was unconscious and bleeding from deep gashes to her head. There were burns to 20 percent of her body. She reeked of gasoline.
Welch testified Wednesday in the trial of the man accused of causing her severe injuries. Her ex-husband, David Morgan, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault and arson.
Morgan, 56, denies attacking his wife and lighting her on fire. He told detectives he fell asleep in front of the television and was attacked by a stranger. He said he saw Welch was on fire when he came to. He said he attempted to extinguish the flames and told detectives he crawled out of the house assuming Welch was behind him.
Prosecutors allege that he orchestrated the assault and fire because he didn’t want to pay his ex-wife part of his Boeing pension or continue to pay child support.
The night of the fire his car was packed with keepsakes, including his family photographs, income tax returns and his daughter’s baby shoes and special blanket. A toiletry bag full of recently filled prescriptions also was found in the car.
Welch, an assistant preschool teacher, dabbed at tears Wednesday after Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern asked her to identify a photograph taken before she was injured.
“Who is that?” Stern asked.
“Me,” Welch quietly replied.
“Is that what you looked prior to 7 p.m. Nov. 16, 2014?”
“Yes,” she said.
Jurors also were shown recent photographs of Welch. Large burn scars and skin grafts cover nearly her entire back. Scars run the length of her upper left leg. Welch doesn’t know how many surgeries she’s endured. Her last one was Oct. 23. Her next one is scheduled for April 15.
She told the jury her ex-husband became angry after their daughter was born. He had moved into her house before they married, but she turned it over to him in the divorce because she didn’t feel comfortable there anymore. She doesn’t remember how their other assets were divided in the divorce, she told jurors.
Welch said she never went inside her ex-husband’s house when she picked up their daughter. She didn’t have a key, and if he didn’t answer the door, she sat in her car and called him until he answered. She didn’t want to go into the house, Welch told jurors.
She was on the stand for less than 30 minutes.
Stern was expected to continue questioning other witnesses Thursday.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joseph Wilson on Wednesday denied a defense motion for another mistrial.
Before Welch took the stand defense attorney Donald Wackerman asked Wilson to disqualify himself from presiding over the case. He accused the judge of using a “hostile tone” with the defense that was prejudicial to Morgan. His bias against the defense was evident, Wackerman said. The public defender cited several cases and judicial ethical standards, apparently from a prepared brief that Wilson had not seen.
Welch’s family and friends could be heard letting out sighs when the judge denied Wackerman’s motion.
Wilson granted a mistrial last month during the first trial after a witness testified that he believed the fire at Morgan’s house was intentionally set. Wackerman succesfully argued that the investigator’s opinion hadn’t been disclosed to the defense before trial.
Prosecutors had previously 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 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. He said it happened in the heat of battle.
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.