Ex-girlfriend might have been intended target in Lexington apartment fires

A Lexington man charged with starting fires on two separate dates might have been trying to target an ex-girlfriend who lived in the apartment building.

A Fayette County grand jury indicted Rodney Wayne Morgan, 18, on two counts of first-degree arson and two counts of second-degree burglary. The indictment was returned Tuesday.

The indictment says the fires and burglaries happened on May 17 and 21 in a 32-unit apartment building in the 1800 block of Oxford Circle. Multiple people occupied apartments at the time of the fires, court records say.

In the May 17 fire, Morgan's former girlfriend told a fire investigator that she heard a loud bang, began to smell smoke and then saw smoke in her apartment. She lived in an apartment next to the vacant unit where the fire started.

The ex-girlfriend left her apartment and saw that the unit next door had an open door and saw fire inside. She yelled twice to see if anyone was inside, then dialed 911, according to court records.

The ex-girlfriend told investigator Capt. Chris O'Bryan that she saw Morgan standing outside the apartment building and said "that he may be responsible for the fire due to his being angry" that she had a new boyfriend. Morgan lived in the same building.

Fire crews confirmed that the door to Apartment 27 was wide open at the time of their arrival, and that someone had forcibly entered the unit.

"Just inside the doorway lying on the floor was a piece of wood with screws facing up in what appeared to be a 'booby trap' for anyone entering the apartment," says a criminal complaint filed in the court record.

O'Bryan also saw burned carpet padding placed against the apartment wall near the fire's point of origin, which suggested that the fire was intentionally set, the complaint says.

During the course of the investigation, Morgan admitted to other investigators "that he intentionally kicked the door to Apartment 27 and was inside the vacant apartment" minutes before the fire was discovered.

Morgan is also charged with May 21 burglary and arson of Apartment 20 in the same building. A citation filed in the court records says he started multiple fires inside that unit. At the time of the fire, the apartment building was occupied by an "undetermined amount of sleeping occupants," a citation says.

First-degree arson is punishable by 20 to 50 years or life in prison and second-degree burglary is punishable by five to 10 years in prison.

Morgan, who remains in the Fayette County jail, is scheduled to be arraigned July 19 in Fayette Circuit Court.