Utah Woman and Dog Die in Fire After Allegedly Being Locked in Storage Unit by Boyfriend

The woman's boyfriend had a long history of domestic violence convictions, going back as far as 2013, according to local news

Utah woman Morgan Kay Harris died on Saturday after a fire broke out at a storage facility. (Murray City Police Department)
Photo: Murray City Police Department

A 27-year-old Utah woman and her dog were found dead in a storage unit Saturday after the woman's boyfriend allegedly locked her inside and left, leaving her no way to escape when a subsequent fire broke out.

Alexander Wardell, 30, was arrested and booked into Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping and negligent homicide, per multiple reports. According to KSL-TV, Wardell had just been released from jail right before the fire broke out at a CubeSmart Self Storage in Murray.

Employees at a neighboring car wash noticed the fire breaking out, according to the outlet, and called for help. When the responders arrived, they found six storage units on fire, including the one the woman was locked in.

The victim, identified by police as Morgan Kay Harris, was discovered dead inside one unit, along with her dog. Surveillance from the car wash showed a man leaving the scene, "coming over the fence," according to one employee speaking to KSL-TV, just before the blaze broke out.

Utah woman and her dog die in storage unit fire after jailbird boyfriend locked them inside

Wardell, who was apprehended by police, told officials that Harris was his girlfriend and that he "closed the door to the unit putting a lock into door," according to an affidavit, reported the outlet.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and it is not yet clear if Wardell was the one to have started it.

According to ABC4, Wardell has a lengthy history with the law, having been convicted on more than one occasion for incidents involving domestic violence, going as far back as 2013.

Local news station KUTV reports that a warrant was issued by Salt Lake City police against Wardell for a probation violation last Thursday, for which he paid a $5,000 bond and was released the next day.

A GoFundMe has been started by the family to help with funeral costs. As of Thursday evening, the fundraiser has reached more than $16,000 in donations.

"Thank you so much for your generosity and supportive words," wrote Harris' mother, Laurice Williamson. "Not having the stress of finances does help us deal with the tragedy somewhat. We are also trying to make a difference in how the legal system handles violent criminals- so that innocent people like Morgan may be saved. I so appreciate every dollar and every word."

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Harris' family members did not immediately respond to a request from PEOPLE for comment.

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