Lynnwood man charged with first-degree attempted murder of ex-wife, torching house to cover up crime

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Fire investigators attempt to determine the cause of the Sunday evening fire that gutted the west Lynnwood home of David Z. Morgan.  (Photo by Larry Vogel)
Fire investigators attempt to determine the cause of the Sunday evening fire that gutted the west Lynnwood home of David Z. Morgan. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office on Friday afternoon charged a Lynnwood man with first-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson and second-degree assault for allegedly bludgeoning his ex-wife Brenda Welch, dousing her with gasoline and setting his Lynnwood home on fire to cover up the crime. Originally charging the suspect with second-degree attempted murder, the prosecutors say they have sufficient evidence of “premeditated intent” to warrant the more serious charge.

According to charging documents filed Friday, which we have uploaded here, prosecutors say that on the evening of November 16, 55-year-old David Z. Morgan attempted to kill his ex-wife to avoid paying her more than $50,000 in child support and other payments, and then set his own house on fire to cover up the crime.

Welch had come to Morgan’s home in the 6200 block of 193rd Street Southwest that evening to pick up their 7-year-old child per the shared custody arrangement in the 2013 divorce decree.

Morgan has been held in Snohomish County Jail since he was released from Swedish Edmonds hospital November 16, after being treated for minor injuries suffered in the fire. Welch survived, but remains at Harborview, where she was transported after being pulled from the burning home.

In charging documents, prosecutors say that they found inconsistencies in Morgan’s story, including his claims that he had not had any contact with Welch prior to the fire, and that he was hit by someone on the head while he was watching television. During the course of the police investigation, police recovered and reviewed cell phone records of both Morgan and Welch, indicating that the two had communicated via text message a week prior to the fire, and those messages “dealt with issues regarding the owed child support,” the prosecutor’s office said.

In charging documents, prosecutors say that they found inconsistencies in Morgan’s story, including his claims that he had not had any contact with Welch prior to the fire,and that he was hit by someone on the head while he was watching television. During the course of the police investigation, police recovered and reviewed cell phone records of both Morgan and Welch, indicating that the two had communicated via text message a week prior to the fire, and those messages “dealt with issues regarding the owed child support,” the prosecutor’s office said.

In addition, the defendant gave conflicting stories to police and hospital personnel about the fire and his injuries, stating to different people that he was allegedly hit on the head by a person, struck by a falling joist, or simply woke up to a burning house.

According to the filed documents, Welch and Morgan were married on Dec. 19, 2006 in Hawaii. They had a child together in June 2007. Morgan worked as an electrical inspector at Boeing while Welch worked as a house cleaner and nanny.

Welch filed for divorce in June 2013, citing that “verbal abuse from David is unrelenting and the living situation is uncomfortable, to say the least.” Welch said that Morgan “yelled at me constantly” and “made efforts daily to cut my self-esteem down to nothing. He frequently tells me that I am ‘worthless.’”

Under financial terms related to the divorce, Morgan was ordered to pay Welch $200 month since he was on work-related medical leave in the late summer and early fall of 2014. When he returned to work full time, that obligation would increase to $1,500 a month, the charging documents said. In addition, Morgan was ordered to pay Welch $37,500 from his Boeing-based defined contribution plan and 50 percent of his Boeing Company Retirement Plan. The 50 percent payment would not apply if Welch died before the payout was made, the documents said.

The house engulfed in flames Nov. 16. (Photo by Brent Tugby)

According to prosecutors, Welch remains at Harborview, where she has been moved from intensive care to the burn unit. “Medical records provided to date note that when she was admitted, doctors observed ‘severe head and face trauma as well as upper body burns,’” charging papers said. Welch has undergone at least three surgeries, sustaining “a complicated traumatic brain injury” and burns over 20 percent of her body. She has been in “a semi-conscious state” and while doctors are optimistic she will wake up, “at best, she faces severe challenges going forward,” documents said.

Prosecutors have asked that bail be set at $2.5 million for Morgan, who faces 210-280 months in prison if convicted on all three counts. Morgan’s arraignment is set for Monday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court.

 

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