COALPORT – A Coalport man will now face criminal homicide charges in relation to a fatal house fire April 16 in Coalport, Clearfield County.
Jonathan Mark Gallaher, 36, is charged by Clearfield-based state police with four counts of criminal homicide and two counts of arson-cause death as well as four felony counts of arson-danger of death or bodily injury, aggravated assault and aggravated arson, two felony counts of criminal mischief and one count of felony arson-inhabited building or structure and causing catastrophe, plus four misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, the Glendale Fire Department was called to a house fire at 8:57 p.m. April 16 in the 600-block of Main Street in Coalport. Troopers, including a Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Unit, were later summoned to assist with the on-scene investigation.
Upon arrival of Trooper Matthew Peacock at approximately 10:45 p.m., he learned Gallaher had been inside the house prior to the start of the fire, and he was found a short distance away at the Central Bar.
Gallaher agreed to an audio-recorded interview inside a state police unit. He said he was in the house, which had caught fire earlier, to buy drugs. He said Matthew Troxell of Patton and two others were upstairs.
He said the male homeowner got upset at him for using drugs there and threw a drink at him, so he left and went to the bar. About 40 minutes later, Gallaher said he saw fire trucks go by the bar because the house was on fire.
Peacock also interviewed the male and female homeowners. She said her husband went downstairs and Gallaher was on the porch but then came upstairs. She said her husband and Gallaher started arguing and he threw Gallaher out of the house.
She said approximately five minutes after Gallaher left, the upstairs started filling with black smoke. She and her husband escaped the house through a window, and she went back inside on the first floor to get her father out. She believed Gallaher started the fire, state police said.
The male said he went downstairs around dark and Gallaher was on his porch. Gallaher was reportedly intoxicated. He said he went back upstairs, Gallaher came with him and started complaining to Troxell about him not wanting Gallaher to be there. He said he told Gallaher that he needed to leave.
He said Gallaher left and five minutes later, smoke started coming into the kitchen area. The male said he didn’t know where the smoke came from but heard Troxell yell that fire was coming up the stairwell.
He said he and his wife escaped the residence through the back window, and he yelled at Troxell to get out of the house.
On April 17, Cpl. Mark McGinnis and Trooper Matthew Gordon spoke with a patron of the Central Bar. She said Gallaher told her that he “didn’t mean for it to happen,” and he “didn’t mean for him (Troxell) to die.” She said Gallaher told her that he “sat and watched” him (Troxell) die and that he would get arrested.
The same day, another witness told Gordon that she overheard Gallaher make a comment about how he “torched that place.”
Fire Marshal Russell Stewart found heavy fire damage immediately upon entry into the residence, particularly the staircase. He said the banister, located along the left side of the stairs, had been completely consumed by direct flame impingement.
Stewart also observed a V-burning pattern from the left side of the second stair, which traveled up towards the wall. He said the octagon window, located directly over the fourth stair, also sustained heavy fire damage from direct flame impingement.
Upon examination of the stairs and fire debris, he determined there was heavier fire damage to the left side of the staircase. Stewart said there was a deep charring and fire damage on the left side of the second stair, which he determined to be the point that Gallaher had reportedly ignited the fire.
Troxell was pronounced dead on-scene at 11 p.m. April 16 by Clearfield County Deputy Coroner Gilbert Stevenson and Coroner Kim Shaffer-Snyder later ruled his death a homicide after his cause of death was found to be smoke inhalation from a house fire.
Gallaher is being held in Clearfield County Jail after having been denied bail. He’s scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. April 28 during centralized court.