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Article updated: 9/7/2012 6:43 PM

Lombard arson victim released from hospital

By Josh Stockinger

He's walking. He's talking. He's home.

More than a month after a deadly house fire left Jason Cassidy with severe burns to nearly 40 percent of his body, the Villa Park man was released from the hospital Friday, his father said.

"He knows what's ahead of him but he's determined," Bob Cassidy told the Daily Herald. "The therapy is just absolutely brutal on the kid. But he's like, 'I gotta do it.' That's his attitude."

The 25-year-old narrowly survived a July 22 fire at the Lombard home of Paula Morgan, who had gathered with friends to celebrate her 25th birthday. Morgan's boyfriend, Todd Mandoline of Villa Park, is accused of lighting the blaze and has been charged with her murder.

Hospitalized since the fire, Jason Cassidy began speaking last week and was moved out of intensive care Monday. He will live with his father in Schaumburg until he's well enough to care for himself, Bob Cassidy said.

"He's very anxious to get started with rehab. He wants to be working by Thanksgiving," his father said.

Bob Cassidy said his son is able to walk and climb steps one at a time, but often is in "excruciating pain." He hasn't talked much about the fire but has been told that Morgan did not survive.

"He's obviously expressed regret for Paula and her family, but he's still taking it in," Bob Cassidy said. "It's been very life changing for him, and he's really got a different perspective on things now."

Mandoline, 23, is accused of setting the early morning fire in an apparent fit of jealousy. Prosecutors say he had been removed from Morgan's birthday party after a confrontation with her and, hours later, returned and set fire to her car.

The flames quickly spread through an attached garage to Morgan's house while she, her 2-year-old son, and Jason Cassidy were inside. The child managed to escape without injury, but Morgan died of severe smoke inhalation.

Fundraiser planned

Bob Cassidy said a fundraiser in Villa Park on Saturday will help his son, who did not have health insurance, with mounting medical bills.

Customers at Caps Sports Bar & Grill, 347 W. St. Charles Road, can get $3 drinks starting at 6 p.m. in exchange for a $10 donation to the Jason Cassidy Trust. There also will be raffles for movie tickets, gift cards and a fishing trip on Lake Michigan.

Donations also are being accepted at gofundme.com/jasoncassidy.

"I'm not expecting miracles, but it'd be nice," Bob Cassidy said. "We still don't know how much rehab is going to cost or how to pay for it."

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