By Elizabeth Daley
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Pennsylvania prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man accused of intentionally setting a house fire that killed a family of six last year, the district attorney said on Tuesday.
Ryan Williams, 25, is accused of walking into neighbor Keith Egenlauf’s unlocked house in a Pittsburgh suburb on Oct. 18 and throwing a flaming roll of toilet paper onto a couch, starting the fatal blaze.
According to the criminal complaint, the arson attack was in retribution for Egenlauf’s suspected snitching to police in an earlier case involving theft.
In court papers, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said he would seek the death penalty for reasons including that the suspected crime was in retaliation against a witness in an investigation and Williams’ prior criminal record.
J. Richard Narvin, Williams’ attorney, said it would not be fair to seek the death penalty against his client, who has said hebelieved Egenlauf lived alone.
“My general comment is I think the district attorney is conflating the size of the tragedy in this case with my client’s intentions,” Narvin said.
On the day of the blaze, firefighters rescued Egenlauf, who sustained burns to more than half of his body, but his wife, Hope Egenlauf, and father, Ronald Egenlauf, were both killed along with Hope Egenlauf’s four children: Autumn Jordan, 6; Dominic Jordan, 7; Serenity Jakub, 3; and Victoria Jakub, 2.
Williams, who was arrested on Jan. 17, has been charged with 30 criminal counts, including six counts of criminal homicide, arson and retaliation. He has not entered a plea.
He is being held in the Allegheny Court Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned on April 14.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by Laila Kearney and Eric Beech)