Man charged with beating his ex-wife and then setting her on fire

LYNNWOOD — David Morgan’s car was packed. There were clothes, family photographs, a wedding album and last year’s income tax return. It appeared as if someone was moving.

Investigators found his car the same night firefighters found his ex-wife in his garage. She was lying in a pool of blood and reeking of gasoline.

Prosecutors allege the Lynnwood man attempted to beat Brenda Welch to death, then set her, and his house, on fire to cover up the crime. Welch, 44, remains at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she is being treated for a severe head injury and burns covering about 20 percent of her body. She has undergone at least three surgeries.

“At best, she faces severe challenges moving forward,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern wrote in court papers filed Friday.

The deputy prosecutor charged Morgan, 55, with attempted first-degree murder, second-degree assault and first-degree arson. A judge Friday ordered Morgan held on $2.5 million bail.

In the charging papers Stern detailed the contentious divorce between the couple, who married in 2006. Welch filed for divorce last year. The couple fought for custody of their 7-year-old daughter.

The divorce was finalized in May. Morgan was ordered to pay child support but was granted a reprieve from paying the full amount while on medical leave during the summer and early fall. Morgan had either returned to his job at Boeing, or was in the process of returning, at the time of Nov. 16 fire, Stern wrote. He would be required to pay $1,500 a month once he returned to work. He also was ordered to pay Welch half of his pension.

“The 50 percent payment did not need to be made if Brenda died before the payout,” Stern wrote.

Welch went to Morgan’s house to pick up the couple’s daughter. The girl later told police that her dad had left her with her grandmother the day before the fire.

Lynnwood firefighters were called to Morgan’s house just after 7 p.m. the next day. The house was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived. A lieutenant saw Morgan stumble from the house. He was carrying a garage door opener that he handed to the lieutenant. Firefighters found Welch inside the garage. She was unresponsive and her face was covered in blood. There was no apparent fire in the garage, but Welch gave off a strong odor of gasoline.

Morgan allegedly gave conflicting accounts of what happened inside the house. He said he was struck in the head by someone. He told another doctor he was in bed when a joist fell on him. He also said his ex-wife was on fire when he walked downstairs. He said he tried to rip the burning sweater off of her.

Doctors found no evidence of a head injury, Stern wrote. He also didn’t appear to have any burns on his hands.

Forensic scientists found evaporated gasoline on Welch’s pants. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, but so far “no accidental cause of the fire” has been found, Stern wrote.

In asking for high bail, Stern wrote that Morgan appeared to be packed up to leave town and had been let go from his job about a week after his arrest.

Morgan is “accused of savagely beating the mother of his child nearly to death,” Stern wrote.

He faces decades behind bars if he is convicted. Morgan is expected to be in court Monday to answer to the charges.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; Twitter: @dianahefley.

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