DA: Alleged arsonist to stand trial

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Logan Township man charged with setting fire to his home and garage just days before a meeting to discuss the division of marital assets with his estranged wife was mentally competent the day of the fire and is competent to stand trial, according to Blair County Assistant District Attorney Russell Montgomery.

Montgomery said defense attorney Theodore Krol, who represents Edward Wilson Houck, 51, withdrew a request for a competency hearing Thursday morning.

Krol and Montgomery met with Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle in her chambers for more than 30 minutes. Montgomery said afterward that the request for a hearing was withdrawn after it was reported that an examination by Dr. Joseph Antonowicz of the Behavioral Health Unit at UPMC Altoona found Houck to be mentally competent.

Houck, who lived at 981 Frankstown Road, faces eight charges stemming from a March 30 fire at the Frankstown Road dwelling, including arson, aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, possession of a prohibited weapon, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, recklessly endangering another person and obstruction of emergency services.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, but when fire personnel arrived, they found several trees cut down and the buildings ablaze.

Houck is accused of refusing to obey police requests that he sit on the ground. He was armed at the time.

It was reported that Houck had a bottle of beer in his hand when emergency personnel arrived.

Houck and his wife had been separated for a lengthy period of time prior to the fire, but discussion on the division of marital assets was to be held the week of the fire.

Since the fire, the wife has been granted exclusive possession of the property as a way to protect it from further damage.

The property is not to be sold until a determination is made on how the assets are to be divided between husband and wife.

Houck has been on bail since April 5, awaiting disposition of his case.

He was in the courthouse Thursday.