PITTSBURGH – A Pittsburgh-area man was dead-set on revenge when he set a house fire that failed to kill his intended target but instead killed the man's father, wife and her four young children, authorities alleged.
On Wednesday, a district judge must decide whether there's enough evidence to send those charges — including six counts of criminal homicide — to trial in the case of Ryan Williams, 24, of McKeesport.
Williams illegally entered Keith Egenlauf's unlocked McKeesport home early on Oct. 18, took money from a wallet and food from the refrigerator before tossing a burning roll of toilet paper on a coach, Allegheny County police have said in a criminal complaint. Williams blamed Egenlauf for theft charges that put him in jail earlier last year, police said.
Egenlauf, 23, managed to escape the fire but was critically injured with burns for which he's still being treated.
The fire killed Egenlauf's father, Ronald Egenlauf Sr., 55; Keith Egenlauf's 27-year-old wife, Hope Jordan; and her four children, ages 2 through 7.
"Williams found out on the news that children died in the house and began to cry," a witness told police. The witness also said, "Williams was upset and sad that children died" because "he thought Keith lived there alone."
Asked after his Jan. 16 arrest whether he knew children were inside the house, Williams told WPXI-TV, "No, I did not," before declining further comment.
Another witness told police that Williams called shortly after the fire began, saying "I just did some crazy (expletive). I'm out on my porch waiting for the fire trucks." The witness heard fire sirens in the background during the phone call, police said.
Defense attorney Richard Narvin planned to contest at least some of the charges at Wednesday's preliminary hearing. Williams has pleaded not guilty.