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Mt. Pleasant man charged with risking a catastrophe

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Mt. Pleasant man was jailed Tuesday in lieu of $50,000 bond after his release from a mental health facility for disconnecting a natural gas line in his home during a suicide threat Feb. 6, that resulted in the evacuation of 19 area homes.

Mark Halfhill, 52, of 802 W. Vine St. was arraigned before Norvelt District Judge Roger Eckels on charges of risking a catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person filed by borough police.

The incident began around 10:45 p.m. and did not conclude until shortly after 2 a.m. the next day after Halfhill ignored repeated attempts by borough police to come out of his home, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Assistant Chief Daniel Zilli.

Halfhill's sister called 911 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. 7, 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.

Halfhill was taken to an undisclosed mental health facility until his release yesterday.

A preliminary hearing will be scheduled before Eckels.

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