CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Man will not face criminal charges in girlfriend’s storage unit fire death

May 10, 2024, 4:27 PM | Updated: 6:09 pm

slco da sim gill shown during a press conference about the storage unit fire death...

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office could not in good conscience file any criminal charges related to the fire. (Aimee Cobabe/KSL NewsRadio)

(Aimee Cobabe/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill will not file any criminal charges after a woman died in a fire inside of a storage unit she was locked inside of by her boyfriend. 

Firefighters found 27-year-old Morgan Harris in one of the units of the CubeSmart Self Storage in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18, 2023. 

Related: Identity of woman killed in storage unit fire released

Harris’s boyfriend, Alexander Wardell, opened the unit for firefighters while it was still on fire. 

Gill said his office could not in good conscience charge Wardell with any crimes related to the fire. 

He told media on Friday that they worked with multiple local agencies and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the past year on this case. 

He quoted ATF investigators who determined “the testing showed that the fire was most likely between six to 15 minutes long. Wardell was away from the unit for a total of 22 minutes, making it unlikely that Wardell intentionally caused the fire before leaving the unit.”

Gill said Murray City Detectives screened the case for charges three times to the SLCo DA’s office. And he said each of those included screenings in fire science.

He also said ATF did 32 test burns that they then documented and shared with Murray Police. 

Gill also quoted then-Chief Medical Examiner Erik Christensen’s findings of Harris’s manner of death. 

The medical examiner determined that Harris wasn’t able to make it to the door because of either early stages of carbon monoxide intoxication, or because she was incapacitated in some other way. 

“If she never attempted to escape, the lock on the door is irrelevant to her manner of death,” Christensen said.

No closure for Morgan Harris’ family

Harris’ mother, Lorraine Williamson tells KSL that despite the evidence, today’s decision did not bring her closure.

“It was shocking and I am extremely disappointed.”

Today some answers came in her daughter Morgan Harris’ death, but she said that she does not feel closure.

“No one sane locks someone in a storage unit and walks away, “If there’s not enough evidence, there’s not enough evidence. Doesn’t mean he’s innocent,” Williamson said.
 
Williamson says she does still believe Wardell is responsible for her daughter’s death. She also puts some blame on the judge who did not keep him behind bars.

“The justice system failed before she died in that he was a convicted criminal, convicted and sentenced to five years, which he never served and was still allowed to even be around another woman.”

Right now Wardell is at the Utah State Prison serving his time for his other domestic related charges.

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Man will not face criminal charges in girlfriend’s storage unit fire death