By Elizabeth Daley
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – A preliminary hearing was postponed on Wednesday for a western Pennsylvania man accused of killing six people in a fire at his neighbor’s house that prosecutors say he set in retribution for the neighbor’s suspected snitching in an earlier case.
Ryan Williams, 25, of McKeesport, told a friend that he walked into Keith Egenlauf’s unlocked house in the same Pittsburgh suburb and threw a flaming roll of toilet paper onto his couch, starting a fatal blaze on Oct. 18, according to the criminal complaint.
Before the fire, Williams told a friend that he was going to “get” Egenlauf for allegedly providing police with information regarding a theft, the complaint says.
Firefighters were able to rescue Egenlauf, who sustained burns to 55 percent of his body, but Egenlauf’s wife, Hope Egenlauf, and his 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 has been charged with six counts of criminal homicide, one count of arson and one count of burglary. He has not entered a plea.
J. Richard Narvin, the lawyer representing Williams, could not be reached immediately for comment.
On the day of the fire, Williams visited another friend and said: “I just lit Keith’s house on fire and if anybody asks, I’ve been here all night,” recalled the friend in the complaint.
Not believing Williams, the friend went back to sleep and did not wake up until a relative called to say there was a fire in the neighborhood, at which point the friend asked Williams what happened.
“Williams found out on the news that children died in the house and began to cry,” the complaint read. “He thought Keith lived there alone.”
Another friend told police Williams had been drinking both before and after the fire and wanted to harm himself following the blaze, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors asked for the delay to give them more time to prepare the case. The hearing was rescheduled for March 13 in Pittsburgh Municipal Court before Judge James Hanley.
Williams, who was arrested on Jan. 17, is being held in the Allegheny Court Jail after the judge denied bail.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Mohammad Zargham)