By Mary Spicer
Charges of murder of the first degree and abuse of a corpse were filed Wednesday against Richard A Houy, 68, of 21300 Teepleville Flats Road, Cambridge Springs, in connection with the death of a man whose partial remains were found by Pennsylvania State Police Friday night inside a barrel in a rural section of northern Crawford County.
Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz told the Tribune Wednesday that he has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty, a decision that doesn’t need to be made before Houy’s scheduled mid-November formal arraignment in the county’s Court of Common Pleas.
Houy, who was originally arraigned on charges of criminal homicide, criminal use of a communication facility, tampering with or fabricating evidence, and making false reports to law enforcement, was arraigned for a second time in connection with the case Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Lincoln Zilhaver.
While charges of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and making false reports still stand, the original charges of criminal homicide and criminal use of a communication facility have been eliminated.
According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday in connection with the case, police claim that Houy intentionally caused the death of Gerald Paul Vandyke on or about Sept. 14 “with malice, premeditation and with the specific intent to kill” by causing a sharp force injury causing his death; and that on or about the same date, Houy treated Vandyke’s corpse “in a way that he knows would outrage ordinary family sensibilities.”
An application filed by state police for a search warrant and authorization to obtain the DNA profile for Houy revealed details of the alleged crime. Police sought DNA information to compare with evidence such as blood, skin cells and/or hair strands that may have been left behind at some point during the course of the killing, dismemberment and/or disposal of Vandyke’s body.
On Sept. 15, Vandyke was reported missing to Pennsylvania State Police in the Corry Barracks by Tina Skelton, his long-time live-in girlfriend, and Skelton’s parents, Richard A. Huoy and Sandra Houy. When a trooper was dispatched to the home of the victim’s son, Andrew Vandyke, on Sept. 16 and Andrew stated that he usually spoke to the victim daily but his last contact with him had been three days before, a missing persons investigation was initiated by Pennsylvania State Police Erie.
On Sept. 18, PSP Erie received a telephone call from an anonymous male caller stating that he had had a conversation with the victim on Sept. 14 during which the victim indicated he was leaving town and didn’t want anyone to know where he was going. When asked to provide contact information the caller disconnected the call abruptly.
Less than an hour later, PSP Corry received a telephone call from a male caller repeating the same basic story as the earlier caller. The second caller wished to remain anonymous, but when pressed to give his name and contact number, the caller stated a name and an Albion address. Further investigation, including playing tapes of both calls to Andrew Vandyke, indicated that Houy may have made both calls.
The investigation continued; on Sept. 25, Houy admitted to making both calls to PSP, but could give no explanation as to why he made the calls. At the conclusion of the interview, Huoy was escorted to the lobby of PSP Erie and waited for the interviews of his wife and daughter to conclude. As he waited, he went outside the building from time to time.
While waiting outside the building, Huoy allegedly approached a PSP sergeant in the parking lot and asked the sergeant “if he would be able to go home and get his affairs in order and write down his account of what happened and return in a couple of days. Richard Houy stated he wanted to see his family and go home and get his tools together because he knew he was going to jail for life.”
During her Sept. 25 interview with police, Skelton initially denied any involvement in or knowledge of Vandyke’s death. Later, however, she gave police information about how her father had disposed of the body/remains of Vandyke that, combined with statements provided by Sandra Huoy, led them to discover the barrel in which a body believed to be Vandyke’s was found on Sept. 27.
“Also observed within the confines of the barrel was either a broken piece of an arrow or a crossbow bolt of the type typically used for hunting,” the affidavit continues. “On the exterior of the barrel was a red smear that appeared to be blood and upon further testing was confirmed to be blood.”
Dr. Eric Vey, a forensic pathologist who conducted Monday’s autopsy on the remains, determined that the cause of the death was a rupture in the aorta, the main artery from the hart, due to a sharp force injury caused by a hunting arrow.
Efforts to identify the remains have been delayed because the man’s head and hands had been removed although Schultz said following the autopsy that he was confident that the remains are those of the victim. The investigation continues.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.