Brenda Welch testified last week in the case against her ex-husband that she did not remember anything about what happened to her the night of Nov. 16, 2014. But deputy prosecutor Paul Stern said that she did not have to.
“With her body, with her blood, with her clothing, she told you what happened,” Stern said during closing arguments in the case Monday.
Prosecutors allege Welch’s ex-husband David Morgan beat her nearly to death and set his own house on fire on Nov. 16, 2014 to try to cover it up. His first trial began in February, but a mistrial was declared and a second trial began in March. During that trial, Welch, who suffered burns to 20 percent of her body and lost her sense of taste and her hearing in one ear, among other persisting health issues, testified last week.
Welch was found in the garage, lying in a pool of blood. Her upper body was in flames when rescue crews found her. Several firefighters and paramedics testified that Welch smelled of gasoline and she was having significant trouble breathing.
Stern walked jurors through the evidence that had been presented.
“Her body tells you what her words can’t,” Stern said.
He said evidence of the breaks in Welch’s skull and bleeding in her brain show “significant force” was used to inflict the wounds she suffered that day. There were breaks on both sides of her skull.
“Separate blows from separate directions,” Stern said. “This was not just some fall. They are not connected. They are two separate and distinct blows.”
Blood spatter was found on Morgan’s sweatshirt, up the left sleeve. Morgan is left handed.
Welch’s sweater burned up in the fire. Her pants and boots, however, were clean.
“There’s no soot on her boots, no soot on her pants. She didn’t walk through a fire. The fire was applied to her,” Stern said.
Out in front of the house, Morgan’s Jetta was gassed up and packed full of documents, family photos, family videos and stuffed animals. His daughter was at his mother’s house.
“The stuff that can’t be replaced,” Stern said.
After the couple divorced, Morgan owed Welch thousands of dollars, including an ongoing $1,500-per- month payment for child support and a portion of his Boeing pension. Before the debt to Welch, Morgan had other debts, including $33,000 to the IRS, $12,000 for a loan and thousands more in doctor’s bills.
“What happens to that $1,500-a-month child support payment if she (Welch) dies?” Stern said. “He gets to keep it.”
Morgan lowered and shook his head throughout the prosecution’s argument.
Defense attorney Sarah Silbovitz did not dispute that what happened on Nov. 16, 2014 was a tragedy, and what happened to Welch was horrific.
“The prosecution has told you an emotional story,” Silbovitz said. “It’s your job to not let a second tragedy occur, to not convict an innocent man.
“David did not attempt to kill his ex-wife, he did not try to set his own house on fire,” Silbovitz said. Meanwhile, Morgan grabbed a tissue and wiped his eyes.
Silbovitz argued that Morgan’s version of the story, told three times through different fire responders, was consistent. Morgan told them all he fell asleep on his couch on the second floor of the house. He felt a bump on his head and heard a voice he thought may have been Welch. Then, he was bumped again and left unconscious. When he came to, he smelled smoke and ran outside. He saw Welch in the kitchen and thought she was following him.
“Brenda Welch is the victim, but Mr. Morgan has been traumatized as well,” Silbovitz said. “He would have been trapped on the second floor if he had not come down when he did.” She showed the jury a photo of the staircase completely burned away after the fire.
The defense also argued there has been no evidence that Morgan did not suffer a concussion and did not suffer smoke inhalation. There was also nothing of evidentiary value found on his computer.
She said Morgan made more than $125,000 per year working at Boeing, so he was not in financial distress—he was able to make regular payments on his debts, and paying Welch for the benefit of his daughter was “not a detriment.”
“The police and the state have rushed to judgment in this case,” Silbovitz said. “They rushed to judgment because Mr. Morgan was the only other person at the scene.”
She asked the jury to find Morgan not guilty of all crimes he has been charged with, including attempted murder, assault and arson.
The jury is now deliberating on this case. A verdict is expected later this week.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate