Mt. Pleasant man to stand trial for alleged home explosion threat
A Mt. Pleasant man will stand trial for allegedly disconnecting a natural gas line in his home recently during a suicide threat that resulted in the evacuation of 19 area homes.
Mark Halfhill, 52, of 802 W. Vine St., on Feb. 21 waived his right to a preliminary hearing before Norvelt District Judge Roger F. Eckels on charges of risking a catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person filed by borough police. Halfhill initially was committed to Westmoreland County Prison on $50,000 cash bond following his arrest after the three-hour incident, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Assistant Chief Daniel Zilli.
Upon waiving his right to the recent hearing, Halfhill's bail was changed to $50,000 unsecured bond so that he could be taken from the prison to an undisclosed mental health treatment facility where he will await trial, based on an agreement reached between the office of Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck and Halfhill's defense counsel, Eckels said.
Halfhill's formal arraignment is scheduled for April 17 in the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas before county Judge Debra A. Pezze.
The incident began when Halfhill's sister called 911 around 10:45 p.m. Feb. 5 after she said her brother called her and said he had sharpened his knives, disconnected the gas line and “once enough gas was in his residence ... he was going to blow up his house,” Zilli wrote.
When police arrived, they discovered Halfhill's car in the driveway, no footprints in the snow and a “strong odor of natural gas” hanging in the air, the affidavit said. Halfhill ignored repeated telephone calls.
Police officers and members of the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department immediately evacuated neighbors within a one-block radius.
Police repeatedly tried to contact Halfhill via telephone and loudspeaker. They blew sirens but got no response.
Utility companies arrived to shut off the gas and electricity.
Around 2 a.m. Feb. 6, borough officers broke out a front window of the home to allow the gas to escape and to get Halfhill's attention. They saw him walking inside the home and ordered him to come out.
When Halfhill emerged, he was taken into custody by borough police. At the Mt. Pleasant police station, he admitted that “he disconnected the gas supply to his furnace, then sat in a chair under the leaking line in an attempt to commit suicide,” the affidavit said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.