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Evidence presented at hearing for Villa Park man accused of setting deadly fire

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 5:38 p.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
Todd Mandoline of Villa Park was charged with first degree murder, aggravated arson, residential arson and criminal damage to property after allegedly being involved in a Lombard house fire that killed a woman last July.

WHEATON – A Villa Park man accused of starting a house fire last summer that killed Paula Morgan in her Lombard home and severely burned Jason Cassidy, currently of Lombard, appeared in court Wednesday for a hearing.

Todd Mandoline, 24, appeared in court before Judge John Kinsella where a DVD showing a portion of his interview with members of the Lombard Police Department was presented to the courtroom. Later, John Malatia, detective sergeant with the Lombard Police Department, was questioned by the prosecution and defense.

Mandoline was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated arson, one count of residential arson and one count of criminal damage to property.

In the early-morning hours of July 22, 2012, Mandoline allegedly stuck a piece of paper into the fuel tank of Morgan's car as it was parked in the driveway of her Lombard home and lit it on fire. The flames engulfed the car and then spread to the adjacent home in the 1000 block of South Ahrens Avenue.

The video presented in court Wednesday showed Mandoline being interviewed by the police. He described watching Morgan's house late into the night, after he had allegedly been taken home from a birthday party at her home, and eventually igniting her car.

"I lit it and I walked away," he said.

He and Morgan had previously been in a dating relationship. In the tapes, the detectives ask Mandoline if he was trying to teach Morgan a lesson.

"I don't know what point I was trying to prove," he said.

At the conclusion of the video, Malatia was called to testify. He described the investigative work done by the police department that eventually led them to Mandoline, and the subsequent interview process with him.

During the interrogation by the police, Mandoline allegedly requested to call his lawyer, but later waived his right to having a lawyer present.

Before Kinsella called a recess at noon, the defense side was cross-examining Malatia to determine when Mandoline's decision to not call a lawyer was made. Video surveillance of him deciding to do so is not available because he was allegedly outside having a cigarette at the time, where cameras were not posted.

Mandoline is due to appear in court again on Oct. 30.

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