Brenda Welch’s voice was quiet and shaky as she took the stand Tuesday to give her testimony as to what happened the night of Nov. 16, 2014.
Prosecutors allege her ex-husband, David Morgan, beat her and then set his house on fire with her inside to keep from having to pay her child support and other savings that she would be due after their divorce earlier that year.
This is the second trial for Morgan, after a mistrial was declared during the first trial at the end of February, following testimony by a fire marshal. The fire marshal testified that it was his opinion that the fire was caused by arson, not that the possibility of arson could not be ruled out. This opinion was not shared with the defense before the trial and so was declared a violation of the discovery order. The defense moved to have the charges dropped but that request was denied earlier this month.
Welch doesn’t remember the day she was burned, but she knows what damage was done.
“I can’t hear out of my right ear, I can’t taste, can’t smell and I have problems with the muscles around my eye,” she said.
She testified that she suffered burns to her legs, back, left shoulder and chest — but she has no memory of what caused her to get hurt. She doesn’t recall how many surgeries she has undergone since the incident, but she knows the healing process isn’t over. Her last surgery was on Oct. 23 and she will have surgery again on April 15.
Welch met Morgan when she became a nanny for his two sons. Welch would go to Morgan’s house, sometimes with her two older daughters, to care for Morgan’s sons.
Both Welch and Morgan were married to other people at the time. Welch lived at a house in Lynnwood in the 6200 block of 193rd Street Southwest with her then-husband. She kept the house when they got divorced. Then Morgan moved in and he became romantically involved with Welch.
Welch got pregnant and told Morgan, so they decided to get married. They had a ceremony and honeymoon in Hawaii in December 2006.
After that, Welch said, everything changed.
“He was angrier,” she said. She said she did not feel safe in the house with Morgan. Even though they tried to work things out, they divorced in 2013.
Morgan got the house in the divorce. Their 8-year-old daughter, Kylie spends most of her time with her mother, but would visit Morgan three weekends a month. Morgan picked up Kylie on Friday from school and Welch would pick her up from Morgan’s house on Sunday.
“I gave the house to him because I didn’t like it,” she said. “The construction and stuff, it just was not mine.”
Welsh said she didn’t have a current key to the house or a garage door opener.
She does not remember going to Morgan’s house on Nov. 16, 2014, but she told the jury she always went on Sunday around 7 p.m. She also recalled her routine: When she arrives, she knocks on the door. If no one answers, she goes to her car and calls Morgan to let him know she is there.
She recalled for the jury that she usually parks on the left side of the driveway, as Morgan’s car is usually on the right side and his truck is in the front of the house near a camper. Photos from Nov. 16, 2014 show her car on the right side of the driveway with the truck on the left and his car in the front near the camper, which she testified is unusual based on what she can remember.
Before Welch took the stand, Lynnwood Police Detective Brian Jorgensen testified to the belongings found inside Morgan’s car the night of the fire.
Inside the trunk was a laptop bag with a computer, five pieces of framed art, family videos, home movies, tax documents and several prescriptions, among other items. In the backseat were four blankets, five men’s jackets, two girl’s jackets and girl’s shoes. Eight stuffed animals were also in the backseat. Welch said some of the child’s items found in the car had not been used by her daughter for years.
Welch testified that Morgan never stored such items in his car. Defense attorney Sarah Silbovitz asked Welch how often she spoke to Morgan after the divorce. Welch said the only regular contact she had with Morgan was over text messages or short conversations, usually about Kylie.
Detective Jorgensen shared with the jury what Morgan told him happened the night of Nov. 16, 2014. Morgan told Jorgensen he was knocked in the head, then heard a voice he thought was Welch’s and was hit again. When he realized his house was on fire, he ran outside thinking Welch was following. When he saw she was not behind him, he said he tried to fill a bucket with a hose but it didn’t work.
The trial is ongoing and is expected to conclude next week.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate