Pa. man faces murder charge in headless body case

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MEADVILLE, Pa. (AP) – Authorities have filed new charges — including first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse — against a northwestern Pennsylvania man already jailed in the death of his daughter’s longtime boyfriend, whose headless remains investigators believe were those found in a metal drum last month.


Richard Houy, 68, of Cambridge Springs, was arraigned Wednesday on the new charges and faces a preliminary hearing Oct. 16. Online court records don’t list an attorney for him.


Houy was charged with criminal homicide last week in the death of 55-year-old Gerald VanDyke, after a body — missing its head and hands — were found in a steel drum. Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz said he has no doubt the remains are VanDyke’s, though results of DNA tests to confirm that were still pending Thursday.


State police on Thursday also reported finding scrapped but “identifiable pieces” of VanDyke’s 2003 Dodge pickup, which had not been seen since he was reported missing Sept. 15 by his longtime girlfriend, Tina Skelton, and her parents, Houy and his wife, Sandra.


Richard Houy became a suspect after police investigated two anonymous calls they received on Sept. 18, claiming VanDyke was leaving town and didn’t want anyone to know where he was headed. When recordings of the calls were played for VanDyke’s son, police were told the voice sounded like Houy’s.


That led police to interview Houy, his wife and his daughter on Sept. 25, at which time Houy acknowledged making the calls but wouldn’t explain why, police said in a criminal complaint. While his wife and daughter were being interviewed, Houy allegedly asked another trooper outside the Erie barracks whether he could go home and “get his affairs in order.”


“Richard Houy stated he wanted to see his family and go home and get his tools together because he knew he was going to jail for life,” according to the complaint.


Police said Houy initially told them he dumped VanDyke’s body in a creek after he punched VanDyke during a dispute, who fell and hit his head. But police now believe VanDyke was fatally shot or stabbed with a hunting arrow, then partially dismembered with a chain saw Houy borrowed, based on information provided by his wife and daughter.


Schultz said he wouldn’t rule out additional charges against Houy or others.


“We’ll continue to investigate whether he had any assistance before, during and after” VanDyke’s killing, Schultz said.


Sandra Houy did not immediately return a message left on her home answering machine Thursday. The Associated Press could not immediately locate a phone number for Skelton.


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