The trial of a Lynnwood man accused of beating his ex-wife then setting his house on fire with her inside continued on Thursday.
Paul Brough, a firefighter/paramedic who responded to the scene and treated defendant David Morgan, took the stand Thursday morning. He described Morgan as having singed eyebrows and hair at the time, but no signs or symptoms of smoke inhalation.
He quickly grew concerned when he saw blood on Morgan’s hands and clothes.
“For me, if someone has that much blood, someone needs medical attention,” Brough said. “I looked over his whole body head to toe, front to back and I didn’t see any injury I could take care of.”
Brough said Morgan was acting sluggish and showed some signs of having a concussion. There was an abrasion on Morgan’s head.
After Brenda Welch was brought to Harborview Medical Center, she had three MRI scans over the course of about eight hours. Jalal Andre, director of neurological MRI at Harborview, was in charge of interpreting those scans.
The scans revealed three fracture complexes, which is a group of fractures all related to the same injury, in Welch’s skull. Andre compared cracking the skull to cracking an egg – when you breach the shell, it rarely makes one crack. Those fracture complexes were located on the bridge of Welch’s nose, over her left eyebrow and on the right side of her head.
Andre said it would take “significant force” to create these fractures.
“This was likely a blow from something more forceful than a punch to the face,” Andre said. “A bat for example could give you this kind of injury. Falling on a brick could give you this kind of injury.”
While the nose fractures could possibly be related to one of the other injuries, Andre said it is not possible for the breaks on the left and right sides of her face to be from the same blow.
More MRI scans show blood pooling near Welch’s brain – enough to cause her brain to shift.
“This becomes a medical emergency because if it continues, her brain will herniate,” Andre said.
Prosecutors presented Deputy Fire Marshal Edwin Hardesty with more than 60 photos he took of the house after it had been consumed by the fire. He walked the jury through the process to determine the point of origin and cause of the fire.
He determined the fire was started in the center dining room area of the house. Photos of that room show no furniture or other items other than a cardboard box and some spare wood. Hardesty said he determined it was not an electrical or gas fire based on the conditions of the room.
“The only source of fuel (in that room) was he cardboard box which would self-extinguish and there’s not enough heat or fuel there to ignite the walls,” he said. “Wall studs don’t self ignite. The only conclusion that I can draw is that there was some type of fuel added to the room, or an accelerant was added to the room, in order for the fire to sustain and burn.”
However, when he went through that room with a special device designed to detect hydrocarbons, which are present in most accelerants, no indication was given that any fuel was brought into the room. He spent about 15 to 20 minutes in the room with the device.
Hardesty said based on the condition of the room, it is possible any accelerant would have been completely consumed by the fire, which could explain why no reading was given.
The hydrocarbon detector did sound off, however, when it was used in the vicinity of Welch’s clothes. On Wednesday, several firefighters testified that she smelled of gasoline.
The door to the garage, the area of the house where Welch was found, was closed.
Court was adjourned before the defense could finish cross-examining Hardesty.
Morgan’s trial will continue on Monday, as the judge, Joseph Wilson, presides over drug court on Fridays. Welch is expected to testify sometime next week.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate