Jury finds city man guilty of burglary, arson

An Altoona man was found guilty of burglary, arson and some related charges after setting a fire in a former landlord’s basement in Philipsburg, the Centre County District Attorney’s Office said.

Erick J. Karlson, 44, of Altoona, was convicted by a jury on one first-degree felony count each of burglary, arson-inhabited building or structure and criminal attempt-arson, a third-degree felony charge of risking catastrophe and one count of misdemeanor possession of an instrument of crime after a one-day trial. One count of criminal mischief was dismissed by Judge Jonathan D. Grine.

According to a news release from the DA’s office, the 73-year-old victim watched as Karlson went into the basement of the his rental home on April 12, 2017. A few minutes later, Karlson left the scene in his pickup truck, yelling obscenities at the victim. The landlord went into the basement and discovered a large fire, with flames 4 to 5 feet high.

He was able to put out the fire using an empty windshield wiper fluid bottle and called the police.

Deputy Fire Marshall Trooper Ryan Bickel determined that Karlson had used gasoline to intentionally start the fire. With Sgt. Leigh Barrows coordinating the investigation, Karlson was apprehended in a few hours at his home in Altoona.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 12. Assistant District Attorney Joshua M. Bower led the prosecution.