EVERETT — A Lynnwood man who escaped a house fire Sunday night is now accused of beating his former wife and setting a fire that left her with life-threatening burns.
David Z. Morgan, 55, was arrested for investigation of arson and attempted murder and booked into the Snohomish County Jail on Monday night. Bail was set at $2 million Tuesday.
Brenda Welch, 44, remained in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Tuesday. She suffered a fractured skull and multiple burns. A paramedic told detectives that the woman smelled strongly of gasoline.
The Lake Stevens woman was found lying inside the garage, according to a Lynnwood police affidavit used to establish probable cause for Morgan’s arrest.
Court records filed in 2013 described a contentious divorce to end their six-year marriage.
Lynnwood police and firefighters were called to the home in the 6200 block of 193rd Street SW shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday. When they arrived, they saw Morgan walk out of the smoke near the front door of the home. He reportedly was coughing and kept falling down.
A Lynnwood firefighter opened the garage door and found Welch on the ground, unconscious and badly burned.
Morgan was taken to Swedish Edmonds hospital, given treatment and then arrested. He has no criminal history.
The couple’s elementary school-aged daughter was with relatives in another city when the fire occurred. Police believe Welch had gone to the Lynnwood home where Morgan lived, expecting to pick up her daughter.
Much of the bottom floor of the home was destroyed by the fire.
When interviewed at the hospital, Morgan told detectives that his daughter stayed with a relative because he had been feeling ill. He said he fell asleep in a chair upstairs and was awakened by someone striking him in the head. He said he believed he became unconscious but woke up to the smell of smoke.
He said he went downstairs, saw his former wife in flames and pulled off her burning sweater to try to extinguish her hair.
Morgan told investigators that he went outside to try to get a hose, but it was frozen. He said he filled a bucket with water, but fell and stayed on the ground.
Detectives said they observed Morgan’s hair was slightly singed, but that he didn’t have other injuries consistent with being near a fire.
“His hands were not burned as would be expected if he pulled a flaming sweater off of Welch and used it to put out the fire on her head,” detectives wrote. “He had dried blood on the backs of both of his hands, which he could not explain.”
Deputy prosecutor Paul Stern said Morgan recently learned his child support payments would be increasing and that he had to dip in to retirement money to cover thousands of dollars owed. In court papers last year, Morgan said he was facing financial problems.
Stern said there were inconsistencies in the story Morgan told firefighters and detectives.
The deputy prosecutor said there was no sign that a third person had been in the house and no indication of forced entry.
“I suppose it could be the one-armed guy with curly hair,” he said, referring to “The Fugitive,” a fictional TV show and movie.
Court-appointed defense attorney Linda Coburn argued that there wasn’t enough information to establish probable cause. She said Morgan “clearly suffered a serious injury” and had a bump on his head.
Everett District Court Judge Tam Bui found that there was sufficient evidence to hold Morgan for investigation of arson and attempted second-degree murder. She didn’t believe there was enough information to establish premeditation, a factor in attempted first-degree murder, at the early juncture in the police investigation.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com