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Mt. Pleasant man charged for gas-line threats

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Mt. Pleasant police have filed criminal charges against a borough man who forced the evacuation of 19 homes after he disconnected the natural gas line to his furnace in an attempt to blow up his house.

Mark Halfhill, 52, of 802 W. Vine St. will face charges of risking a catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person upon his release from a hospital where he is receiving mental health treatment, said Assistant Chief Dan Zilli of the borough police department.

The ordeal began around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday and did not conclude until shortly after 2 a.m. on Thursday after Halfhill ignored repeated attempts by borough police to come out of his home, according to an affidavit Zilli filed before Norvelt District Justice Roger Eckels.

Halfhill's sister called 911 after he 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 the 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. Thursday, 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 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.

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