By Keith Gushard
Though the victim and his alleged killer are both deceased, the investigation into the death of murder victim Gerald P. Van Dyke continues for now, according to Francis Schultz, Crawford County’s district attorney.
Van Dyke, 55, of 15521 Smith Road, Union City, was killed Sept. 14 before Richard A. Houy, 68, of 21300 Teepleville Flats Road, Cambridge Springs, was arrested Sept. 25 by Pennsylvania State Police after Houy allegedly confessed to killing Van Dyke. Van Dyke was the live-in boyfriend of Houy’s daughter, Tina Skelton.
A preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to try Houy in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas on state police charges of first degree murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with or fabricating evidence, and false reports to law enforcement officials was scheduled for Nov. 26, but Houy took his own life last weekend.
Early Saturday, Houy hanged himself at the Crawford County jail in Saegertown where he had been lodged without bond since his late September arrest.
Houy’s death was ruled a suicide by Crawford County Coroner Scott Schell following an investigation by Schell and state police. Houy died from asphyxiation from ligature hanging, Schell said.
“We don’t charge somebody with criminal homicide unless we’re satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that that person committed the crime,” Schultz said Thursday. “The investigation showed that Mr. Houy was the one who killed Mr. Van Dyke.”
“As in all investigations of that sort, once a person is arrested, the investigation does not stop,” Schultz said of homicide investigations.
State police criminal investigators have been preparing an investigation report on Van Dyke’s homicide for the district attorney’s office for use at Houy’s preliminary hearing.
“In this case, if it appears that somebody else was involved in any manner then we will pursue that, (though) at this point it does not,” Schultz said when asked if anyone else besides Houy was involved in Van Dyke’s death.
“Once that report is completed, I’ll be meeting with the state police and we’ll decide if any other action needs to be taken,” Schultz said Thursday.
Van Dyke’s headless and handless remains were found by authorities inside a barrel in a wooded area of Rockdale Township near Houy’s home on Sept. 28. Van Dyke was last seen Sept. 14.
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 hands still have not been recovered.
According to a state police search warrant affidavit filed in the case, Skelton, Houy and his wife, Sandra Houy, reported to state police on Sept. 15 that Van Dyke was missing.
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, Skelton gave authorities a different version of events in her Sept. 25 interview with police, according to the affidavit.
Approximately three weeks before Van Dyke’s disappearance, Skelton had told Van Dyke she wanted to end an approximately 10-year relationship with him, the affidavit said. Skelton and Van Dyke 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.