New trial denied for Villa Park man convicted in Lombard arson murder

  • Todd Mandoline

    Todd Mandoline

Updated 4/1/2015 5:44 AM

A Villa Park man faces life in prison after being denied a new trial for igniting a July 2012 fire that killed a 24-year-old woman and severely burned a 25-year-old man.

A 12-member DuPage County jury deliberated less than two hours in January before convicting Todd Mandoline of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated arson. Mandoline started the fire at 1028 S. Ahrens Ave. in Lombard that killed Paula Morgan and injured her friend Jason Cassidy.


Judge John Kinsella denied Mandoline's motion for a new trial Tuesday morning and set a sentencing date of 10 a.m. April 30 in courtroom 4000.

Mandoline started the fire after a party celebrating Morgan's 25th birthday. Mandoline's conviction Tuesday came on his 26th birthday.

Prosecutors said Mandoline stuffed an ignited piece of a paper concrete bag into the gas tank of Morgan's 2003 Acura just before 4 a.m.

The fire spread quickly from the car, up the driveway, to the garage and eventually through the two-story home. Morgan was found unresponsive in the smoke-filled landing of the home's staircase. Cassidy, found on the floor of an upstairs bedroom, was able to be resuscitated.

Mandoline's attorney, Ernest DiBenedetto, maintained during the trial that his client admitted to setting the blaze only after hours of intense questioning and with interrogators "feeding him the information."

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