Todd Mandoline, 23, appeared before a judge for a bond hearing Wednesday. The Villa Park man was charged with first-degree murder and arson. He is accused of starting a fire Sunday in Lombard that killed 24-year-old Paula Morgan.
Mandoline is being held without bond because of the nature of the charges. He is due back in court on August 13. The defendant wants to hire a private attorney, so the arraignment has been continued until the August court date.
Authorities say Mandoline set the fire at 4 a.m. following a birthday party for Morgan at her mother's home on the 1200-block of South Ahrens.
Firefighters rescued Morgan, who was trapped in an upstairs bedroom but later died. Her 6-year-old son was unharmed.
Morgan would have turned 25 Monday.
Prosecutors say Mandoline used to be in a relationship with the victim, and both of them allegedly fought the night of the fire.
Prosecutors say Mandoline left the birthday party at the home and decided to walk the two miles back. Authorities believe he allegedly stalked Morgan from outside the house while sending her a series of text messages.
"At some point after Paula Morgan went back inside the home, the defendant became enraged, picked up a piece of paper, twisted it up, put it in the gas tank of the victim's vehicle, which was parked in her driveway, and took a lighter and set it on fire," said Bob Berlin, DuPage County state's attorney. "He was interviewed. He made a number of statements to the police department. He ultimately did admit setting the fire that caused the victim's death."
Authorities say the flames spread quickly to the garage and then to the home. Morgan's boyfriend, Jason Cassidy, 25, was rescued. He is still fighting for his life in critical but stable condition.
Mandoline faces a life sentence if convicted. Almost a dozen of Morgan's family members showed up in court Wednesday. They did not comment. She will be laid to rest Friday.