SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — A man with a history of domestic violence and drug charges was released by Judge, and his release reportedly led to the death of at least one victim.
Alexander Wardell had a history of domestic violence and drug charges. After several felonies where he was only given probation, a judge finally terminated his probation, making it possible for Wardell to receive jail time.
Two of Wardell’s most serious crimes were committed in 2018 when he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault after he allegedly choked his girlfriend and stabbed her a month later.
Wardell faced several charges and pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and criminal mischief. Each felony carried a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. Instead, the judge gave Wardell time served for his time in prison awaiting charges, and 36 months probation.
By 2022, court records indicate Wardell violated his probation on multiple occasions, including pleading guilty to a weapons charge. This felony also carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but he was again only given 36 months probation.
Records indicate Wardell committed five more probation violations before he was arrested on a homicide charge in 2023.
On Feb. 18, Morgan Kay Harris died in a fire after Wardell locked Morgan and her dog in a storage unit and set it on fire, Murray Police claimed.
“They are culpable in my daughter’s death,” Morgan’s mother Laurice Williamson said. “They had the knowledge that we didn’t have. They had the power to do something,”
Morgan’s death is still under investigation, with no formal charges being brought forward to Wardell yet. Wardell is in custody over more probation violations.
“I don’t know how you ever stop thinking about it,” Williamson said, referencing that her daughter’s death was a failure of the justice system.
Last month, the judge ordered Wardell to be released to in-patient treatment. Before the judge’s ruling, Wardell had a moment to address the court thanking the court for their patience with him and apologizing for wasting resources on him.
“It’s not my intention. I was just struggling,” said Wardell in court.
However, following the ruling, the prosecution filed an objection and played a phone recording of Wardell talking about his sentence.
“I really don’t think he will give me more time… worst case scenario… he’s going to give me a year,” said Wardell on a jail phone call on April 9th, nearly two months after Harris died.
On Monday, Judge McKelvie terminated Wardell’s probation. This reopened prison time for Wardell on three third-degree felonies and two misdemeanors. Each felony carries up to 5 years in prison, with both two assault charges running consecutively.
“I can’t trust you in the community right now because you don’t follow through on things,” said Judge McKelvie.
Police arrested Wardell back in February in connection with Harris’s death, but no formal charges have been filed, and the case is still open. Murray Police released a statement that said several investigators are on the case. and some of the facets of the investigation take more time than others.