Police: Man locked girlfriend, dog in Murray storage unit that caught fire and killed them

Feb 19, 2023, 2:12 PM | Updated: 10:26 pm

MURRAY, Utah — A man is in jail after police said he stopped a woman and dog from being able to escape a fire in a storage unit complex in Murray, ultimately leading to their deaths. Turns out, this man has a troubling history and according to court documents had just been released from jail right before the fire.

The fire broke out Saturday at CubeSmart Self Storage, at 4640 South 900 East. Employees at a car wash business next door described seeing smoke coming from one of the buildings in the complex.

“They just looked outside the window, and saw all the smoke coming up,” recalled Tristan Rogers, who works at the car wash. “And so they just decided to call the fire department, since no one was there yet.”

Thanks to their quick call for help, fire crews and police arrived on the scene. Murray City Fire found six storage units had gone up in smoke, with a horrifying discovery in one of them: A woman and dog that didn’t survive.

Police quickly figured out the woman was locked in with no way to escape. Firefighters had to open the door to reach the woman.

Car wash employees described how they again helped with the case, with surveillance from just a few minutes before the blaze started.

“We were able to manage some footage of just a little sliver of him coming over the fence, just walking past,” Rogers explained.

This was at 4:30 pm, according to the surveillance. Murray City Fire said they were dispatched 12 minutes later.

According to the affidavit, the man officers arrested — 30-year-old Alexander Wardell– told police the woman was his girlfriend.

“The female was in the unit when he closed the door to the unit putting a lock into door,” the affidavit states.

It goes on to say that Wardell walked away and left the area on foot.

“While the male left the area the unit caught on fire and due to the lock being in the door the female was unable to flee from the fire,” investigators wrote.

Murray City Fire said Sunday they aren’t sure exactly how the fire started and are still investigating, so it’s unclear if investigators think Wardell is to blame for that, too.

A look into Wardell’s past shows he is on probation for two domestic violence cases against a past ex-girlfriend, both originating in 2018. He pleaded guilty to charges that included felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor criminal mischief and received 36 months of probation as his sentence for both cases, to run concurrently.

According to his court history, Wardell has violated the terms of his probation numerous times. He’s had several warrants issued for his arrest because of the violations.

The most recent arrest warrant was issued on Feb. 16, two days before the fire. Another document filed after that shows Wardell bonded out of jail the very same day.

Wardell now faces charges of negligent homicide, kidnapping, and violating probation. This time, there’s no bail for allegedly locking in his girlfriend and leaving her to die.

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Police: Man locked girlfriend, dog in Murray storage unit that caught fire and killed them