PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man set a Pittsburgh-area fire that killed six people last fall, four of them children, because he wanted to get revenge on someone in the house, according to authorities.
Ryan Williams, 24, was charged Friday with six counts of criminal homicide, arson and burglary in the Oct. 18 fire in McKeesport. The blaze killed 55-year-old Ronald Egenlauf Sr., his 27-year-old daughter-in-law Hope Jordan, and her four children, ages 2 through 7.
Detectives allege in a criminal complaint that Williams set the fire because he partially blamed the fire’s lone survivor, Keith Egenlauf, for his incarceration in a theft case. Keith Egenlauf was the older man’s son and Jordan’s husband.
According to the criminal complaint, one witness quoted Williams as saying he went into the unlocked house and “lit a roll of toilet paper on fire and threw it on the couch.” That witness also quoted Williams as saying “I just did some crazy (expletive). I’m out on my porch waiting for the fire trucks,'” on a phone call during which the witness could hear sirens in the background.
Another witness reported begin awakened early on the day after the fire by Williams, who allegedly told him that he had just “lit Keith’s house on fire, and if anybody asks, I was here all night,” the criminal complaint said.
One of the witnesses told investigators that Williams began to cry after finding out from news reports that children had died in the fire, saying he believed Keith Egenlauf lived there alone.
Asked Friday whether he knew children were inside the house, Williams told WPXI-TV, “No, I did not,” but he declined further comment. Court documents don’t list an attorney for him.
Ronald Egenlauf, who was partially paralyzed and used a wheelchair, was found dead on the first floor. The other victims were found in a second-floor bedroom.
Authorities said Keith Egenlauf and his wife had initially escaped the flames but raced back inside in hopes of rescuing their family. Keith Egenlauf was left with burns over half his body.
Dawn McPherson, 37, Jordan’s sister, said Williams deserves no mercy if convicted.
“I hope he can’t sleep at night,” McPherson said. “I hope he’s haunted for the rest of his life. I hope God gives him everything he deserves.”
Another relative, Lisa Lakenan, said family members were still struggling with the deaths.
“We just can’t wrap our minds around how someone decides to burn a house down with seven people in it,” she said.
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