By Keith Gushard
DNA testing has confirmed the headless and handless human remains found last month stuffed inside a barrel in a wooded area of Rockdale Township are those of a missing Erie County man.
The Crawford County District Attorney’s Office and Crawford County Coroner’s Office confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the remains are those of Gerald P. Van Dyke, 55, of 15251 Smith Road, Union City.
Authorities had to await DNA test results on the remains to confirm the man’s identity since the head and hands were missing from the body when it was recovered on Sept. 28, according to Francis Schultz, Crawford County’s district attorney. Van Dyke had been missing since Sept. 14.
“I was always confident the remains were those of Mr. Van Dyke,” Schultz said. “DNA testing was used to confirm that using objects he owned.”
With the confirmation, the remains now can be released to the Van Dyke family for burial, said Scott Schell, Crawford County coroner.
On Sept. 28, Pennsylvania State Police found the human remains stuffed inside a barrel near the home of Richard A. Houy, 68, of 21300 Teepleville Flats Road, Cambridge Springs. A Sept. 30 autopsy done on the remains by Dr. Eric Vey, a forensic pathologist, found Van Dyke died from a ruptured aorta pierced by a hunting arrow. The head and heads still have not been recovered.
Houy has been held in the Crawford County jail in Saegertown without bond since his Sept. 25 arrest by state police after he allegedly admitted to killing Van Dyke.
Houy faces a preliminary hearing next month on state police charges of first degree murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with or fabricating evidence, and false reports to law enforcement officials in connection with Van Dyke’s death.
“It’s still being investigated,” Schultz said Tuesday when asked if any more arrests were possible in the case.
On Sept. 15, Van Dyke was reported missing to state police by Tina Skelton, his long-time live-in girlfriend; and Skelton’s parents, Richard A. Houy and Sandra Houy, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case.
In an interview with police on Sept. 25, Houy admitted disposing of Van Dyke’s body in French Creek after killing Van Dyke at Houy’s Rockdale Township property, the search warrant affidavit said.
But, Tina Skelton, Houy’s daughter, had a different version of events in her Sept. 25 interview with police, according to the affidavit.
Approximately three weeks prior to Van Dyke’s disappearance, Skelton had told Van Dyke she wanted to end an approximate 10-year relationship with him, the affidavit said. Skelton and Van Dyke aren’t married but jointly owned a 26-acre property and home at 15251 Smith Road in LeBoeuf Township, Erie County, according to the affidavit.
Skelton told police Van Dyke had not been seen since 9 a.m. Sept. 14 when Van Dyke drove away from the home the two shared, the affidavit said.
Skelton told police that she went to her father’s home the evening of Sept. 14 and Houy admitted to her to killing Van Dyke earlier that day at Houy’s home, according to the affidavit. Skelton told police her father may have used a chain saw to dismember Van Dyke’s body before placing the remains in either a wooden box or barrels inside Houy’s barn, according to the affidavit.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.