Munhall man found dead in Pittsburgh after being sought for kidnapping ex-girlfriend, burning her Irwin house |

Munhall man found dead in Pittsburgh after being sought for kidnapping ex-girlfriend, burning her Irwin house

Paul Peirce
Joe Napsha | Tribune-Review
Multiple fire departments responded to a house fire about 1:30 p.m. Friday at 509 Green St. in Irwin.

A Munhall man has been found dead in Pittsburgh of an apparent suicide after police spent Thursday and Friday searching for him in connection with a kidnapping in Butler County and a fire in Westmoreland County, emergency dispatch officials reported.

John Thomas O’Leary, 52, was being sought for starting a fire Friday at the Irwin home of a former girlfriend after holding the woman at gunpoint for hours a day earlier at a campground in Slippery Rock.

Pittsburgh police spotted O’Leary’s car in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood and gave chase, according to Trib news partner WPXI. The car left the roadway and crashed on the 4000 block of Saline Street, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office.

State police told WPXI that O’Leary shot himself.

The fire in the 500 block of Green Street was reported at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Irwin police Chief Roger Pivirotto said. Bulletins issued by Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety said O’Leary was considered armed and dangerous. He was described as driving a 2018 silver Hyundai Elantra.

No one was home at the time of the fire, which was discovered by a state police trooper from the Butler station who had gone to the house to search for O’Leary as part of his duties with the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force, Pivirotto said.

O’Leary, who had been convicted of third-degree murder in 1987, was accused of threatening the woman with a handgun Thursday at Slippery Rock Campgrounds, according to court documents. She eventually escaped unharmed after being held against her will for more than four hours, police said.

O’Leary told the woman he was going to kill her, her brother and himself, police reported.

Pivirotto said he and Officer Bill Sombo checked to see if O’Leary was at the woman’s house about 10:15 a.m. Friday. There was no sign of forcible entry, but O’Leary previously had lived at the residence, the chief said.

The woman previously obtained a protection from abuse order against O’Leary, which ordered him to stay away from her.

Friday’s fire damaged the residence’ first floor, said John Helmann, Irwin fire department captain. He declined further comment, saying it was a police matter. The cause will be investigated by a state police fire marshal.

A neighbor said she saw “a ton of smoke” pouring from a roof vent and more smoke when firefighters opened the door.

Firefighters from Irwin, North Huntingdon, North Irwin and Penn Township were on the scene for more than an hour.

Officials temporarily delayed releasing Norwin students from schools across the district as police searched for O’Leary.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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