Man charged with murder in fatal Lombard fire
A 23-year-old Villa Park man was charged Tuesday with the first-degree murder of a Lombard woman who died in an arson fire the day before her 25th birthday, prosecutors said.
The suspect, Todd Mandoline, also faces charges of arson and aggravated arson in the Sunday fire that killed 24-year-old Paula Morgan.
Authorities allege that Mandoline set the fire about 4 a.m. following a birthday party for Morgan at her mother's home on the 1000 block of Ahrens Avenue in Lombard, where she lived with her 6-year-old son.
A neighbor said she woke up just before 4 a.m. after hearing the sound of a car alarm. When she looked outside, she saw that a car parked in Morgan's driveway was engulfed in flames.
"The flames were as high as the garage," said the neighbor, who asked that her name not be used.
At that point, the fire hadn't spread to the garage, according to the neighbor, but eventually, the flames did reach the house.
"We're in shock that it even got as bad as it was," the neighbor said. "We just thought that the car was on fire, and that it would be put out. For everything to turn out so tragic, I can't believe it."
Police said firefighters pulled Morgan and her boyfriend, a Villa Park man in his 20s, from the upstairs of the home, while Morgan's son managed to escape on his own.
Neighbors say the 6-year-old was safe outside of the house before firefighters arrived.
Deputy Police Chief Pat Rollins said the male victim remained in critical condition Tuesday at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
Mandoline has prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, criminal damage to property and marijuana possession, according to court records. He is scheduled to appear in DuPage County bond court Wednesday morning, with a news conference to follow.
On Monday, Morgan's former longtime boyfriend and the father of her child said he will remember her as a "loving, caring" mother who dedicated her life to their son.
"She was a wonderful woman," said Nick Beckwith, 25, who was caring for the boy after the fire. "It was all about her kid."