Appellate court affirms Villa Park man's murder conviction
The state's Second District Appellate Court has affirmed the first-degree murder conviction of Todd Mandoline of Villa Park for starting a 2012 fire that killed his former girlfriend in Lombard.
Mandoline, now 31, was found guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated arson and was sentenced in April 2015 by DuPage County Judge John Kinsella to consecutive prison terms of 27 years for murder and 12 years for aggravated arson.
Mandoline appealed, arguing that there was no probable cause for his arrest; that he did not voluntarily resume questioning after the initial interrogation ended due to his invocation of his right of counsel; that his statements to police were not voluntary, knowing or intelligent; that statements he made were in violation of law that requires electronic recording; and that the trial court erred in its jury instructions.
In its affirmation, the Appellate Court found the trial court acted properly and within its power on each of those issues.
Authorities said Mandoline attended a party on July 21, 2012, that his former girlfriend, Paula Morgan, was holding for herself at her Lombard home to celebrate her approaching 25th birthday. Mandoline was asked to leave the party and did so.
But, in the early morning hours of July 22, he returned and set fire to Morgan's mother's car in the driveway.
The fire spread quickly up the driveway to the garage and eventually through the two-story house.
Morgan was found unresponsive in the smoke-filled landing of the home's staircase. One of her friends, Jason Cassidy, was found on the floor of an upstairs bedroom and was resuscitated.
Morgan's 6-year-old son, whom Mandoline had put to bed earlier that night, escaped unharmed and alerted remaining partygoers in the backyard. Morgan's mother, who also lived in the house, wasn't home at the time.
At the time of sentencing, Kinsella said he didn't believe Mandoline intended to kill anyone when he started the fire, but should have known the damage his actions could cause.
"The issues raised by Mr. Mandoline in his appeal were nothing more than a last, desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for the murder of Paula Morgan," DuPage State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. "It is my sincerest hope that with the Appellate Court's decision, Paula Morgan's family and friends will now be able to proceed with their lives knowing that Mr. Mandoline will pay for what he has taken from them."