Alleged arsonist free on bail

Edward W. Houck, the 50-year-old Logan Township man accused of attempting to burn down his home and garage along Frankstown Road last Sunday, was released Friday from Blair County Prison after posting $35,000 cash bail.

A brother Craig Houck brought the bail to the Blair County Courthouse about 10 a.m., and Houck, who waived his preliminary hearing in the case on Thursday, was set free.

With his home on Frankstown Road boarded up – and at least temporarily in the exclusive possession of his estranged wife – Houck listed his new address at 589 Aungst Lane, Hollidaysburg.

According to his bail requirements, Houck must “refrain from criminal activity,” a condition he said he would follow.

Other requirements are that he appear at all hearings or when requested, he not attempt to intimidate witnesses and he must provide notice to authorities if he changes his address.

Assistant District Attorney Julie Koren, who is handling the Houck prosecution, was not available for comment Friday.

Houck is facing eight criminal charges including arson, aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, possession of a prohibited firearm, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, recklessly endangering and obstructing emergency services.

Logan Township police and fire personnel responding to Houck’s home at 981 Frankstown Road on Sunday found several trees intentionally cut down. The garage and home were on fire.

Police said Houck was there with a bottle of beer in his hand and refused police commands to sit on the ground. He was armed.

Houck allegedly admitted he set the fires to his garage and home – property that is jointly owned with his estranged wife. The couple have been separated for three years.

The wife obtained a temporary protection-from-abuse order against Houck. It was signed Monday and will be heard in Blair County PFA Court on Thursday.

The wife’s attorney, Joel Seeyle, has obtained a temporary order giving the wife exclusive possession of the property. A hearing will be held to determine if she will retain custody of the property.

According to the petition filed by Seeyle, there is concern that Houck was destroying the value of the marital property by setting the fires.

Possession was requested as a way to protect the property from further damage.

An order issued by a Blair County judge in Houck’s ongoing divorce case indicated that marital assets were not to be sold or “dissipated” until a court hearing could be held to determine how to divide the assets.

That hearing was to have been held Wednesday but was continued because of Houck’s arrest and the fires at the former couple’s property.

The wife has requested that all bank accounts be frozen.

Houck was before Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

He waived his case to court after a plea deal was struck between the prosecution and Houck’s attorney, Ted Krol, under which he will be sentenced to a year in jail.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.