Trial of Lynnwood man accused of attempted murder underway

David Morgan (right) with his attorney Donald Wackerman.

The trial of a Lynnwood man accused of the attempted murder of his ex-wife and of setting his house on fire with her inside began Wednesday morning.

More than a year has passed since Brenda Welch was found bloody and burned in the garage of 56-year-old defendant David Morgan’s home just after 7 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2014.

Morgan pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors described Welch’s wounds Wednesday as having a broken nose, two large cuts on the side of her head, a fractured skull and burns to over 20 percent of her body.

“She lost her hearing, she lost her sense of smell, she even lost her memory of what happened that night,” Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern said during opening arguments.

Welch had filed for divorce in June 2013. Under terms outlined in the divorce, Morgan was ordered to pay her $200 per month while he was on medical leave. When he returned to work full-time, that number would go up to $1,500 per month. Morgan was also ordered to pay Welch an additional $37,500 from his Boeing-based defined contribution plan and 50 percent of his Boeing Company Retirement Plan.

Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern delivers his opening argument.

“If Brenda died, so does that altercation,” Stern said.

Stern showed the court graphic images of Welch at Harborview Medical Center, where she was receiving treatment for her trauma and burns.

The defense acknowledged something horrible happened to Welch that night, but said it wasn’t Morgan’s fault.

“He (Morgan) knows he didn’t do this. He didn’t strike her. He didn’t set his house on fire,” defense attorney Donald Wackerman said. “And the one other person who was there doesn’t remember.”

Defense attorney Donald Wackerman delivers his opening argument.

Firefighters who responded to the scene testified Wednesday as to what they saw and smelled when they arrived.

Paramedic firefighter Joshua Peterson described what he saw while tending to Welch.

“She appeared to have something applied to her chest, the fire came right to her,” he said.

He said he knew something was off when he saw the trauma to her head and bleeding from her ears.

“This doesn’t look like one blunt trauma,” he said. “This wasn’t blunt. It was sharp. There were multiple wounds and you just wouldn’t have that with just one strike.”

Paramedic Kevin Miller helped tend to Welch at the scene.

“Something seemed out of place,” Lynnwood Firefighter Kevin Miller said. “She (Welch) smelled as though gasoline had been poured on her. The extensive trauma she suffered in addition to the burns seemed out of place.”

Lt. Jason Turner was among the first to enter the house from the front while the fire burned in the back, to try to knock it down. He described the huge fire in the back of the house appeared to be concentrated back there and the front of the house was relatively untouched.

“I thought, is there an internal partition?” he said. “The fire was really impressive from the front. That didn’t translate to what was in the back.”

Multiple firefighters describe seeing Morgan at the scene. They say he wasn’t sick or hurt and didn’t show signs of any life-threatening issues, but he was acting “erratically” and doing things like pointing at the house and grunting rather than speaking words.

Peterson said the actions “seemed exaggerated” and that Morgan “spoke very clearly” at points.

Firefighters said Morgan did not smell of gasoline when they encountered him.

The trial continues Thursday and is expected to go into next week. Welch is expected to testify as early as Thursday.

–Photos and story by Natalie Covate

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