Villa Park man convicted of murder for 2012 arson fire
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(WHEATON) A Villa Park man was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder and arson for the 2012 fire in west suburban Lombard that left his ex-girlfriend dead and another man critically injured.
It took jurors about 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict for Todd Mandoline on his 26th birthday, according to a statement from the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office.
On July 22, 2012–a day ahead of her 25th birthday–Paula Morgan was killed in the fire after a party she hosted at her home in the 1000 block of Ahrens in Lombard, where she lived with her mother and 6-year-old son, prosecutors said.
Mandoline, who had been on probation for a previous drunk-driving conviction, attended the party but left when he was asked to do so, prosecutors said. He later returned and after spending several hours outside the home sending text messages to Morgan, he became enraged and set fire to Morgan’s mother’s car in the driveway, authorities said.
The flames spread from the 2003 Acura to Morgan’s frame house, setting it ablaze and trapping her and her 25-year-old friend, Jason Cassidy, on the second floor, prosecutors said.
Morgan died of smoke inhalation and Cassidy was critically injured in the morning blaze. Morgan’s 6-year-old son was woken by a smoke detector and escaped the house uninjured, prosecutors said.
Mandoline left the area after setting the fire, but was quickly located by Lombard police and later confessed to starting it, authorities said.
“Paula died a horrific death because of the outrageous behavior of Todd Mandoline,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a written statement. “Her death also left a young boy without his mother.
“The fire set by Mr. Mandoline not only left Jason Cassidy fighting for his life… but also left him with physical and emotional scars he will carry with him for the rest of his life,” Berlin said.
Mandoline, who had been held without bond at the DuPage County Jail since being charged days after the fire, is due in court Feb. 20 for post-trial motions, authorities said. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.