CENTRE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED 05/11/2018

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ALTOONA MAN FOUND GUILTY OF BURGLARY & ARSON FOR SETTING A FIRE IN FORMER LANDLORD’S BASEMENT

 

Following a one day jury trial, a Centre County jury found Erick J. Karlson, 44, of Altoona, guilty of one count of Burglary, (F1); one count Arson-Inhabited Building or Structure (F1); one count Criminal Attempt – Arson (F1); one count Risking Catastrophe (F3) and one count Possession of an Instrument of Crime (M1). One count of Criminal Mischief was dismissed by The Honorable Jonathan D. Grine, who presided over the trial.

On April 12, 2017, the 73-year-old victim watched as the Defendant went into the basement of the victim’s rental home. Just a few minutes later, the Defendant left the scene in his pickup truck, yelling obscenities at the victim. The victim went into the basement to discover a large fire, with flames reaching four to five feet high. Using an empty windshield wiper fluid bottle, he was able to put out the fire and call the police.

Troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police – Philipsburg Barracks responded to the scene immediately. Deputy Fire Marshall Trooper Ryan Bickel determined that the Defendant had used gasoline to intentionally start the fire. With Sgt. Leigh Barrows coordinating the investigation, the Defendant was apprehended in just a few short hours at his home in Altoona. After deliberating for approximately 1 hour, the jury returned their verdict. Sentencing is scheduled for April 12, 2018. Assistant District Attorney Joshua M. Bower led the prosecution in this case.

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Unionville Man Sentenced to 175-350 Years for Rape and Sexual Assault of a Child

Gary Cain, 43, of Unionville was sentenced today by the Honorable Senior Judge David E. Grine to 175-350 years for the rape and sexual assault of a child. Cain was found guilty on November 15, 2017, following a two-day trial of multiple counts, including Rape, Statutory Sexual Assault, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Unlawful Contact with a Minor, Sexual Assault, Corruption of Minors, and Indecent Assault. Cain was found guilty of sexually assaulting the minor over a several year period when the child was under the age of 16. Trooper Richard Hoover of the Pennsylvania State Police filed the charges. Assistant District Attorneys Crystal Hundt and Michael Osterberg prosecuted the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna says that, “Victims of abuse will be heard and these cases will be prosecuted. Cain’s lengthy sentence is necessary to ensure public safety and to hold him accountable. “

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On June 6, 2017 Courtney McGhee was brutally murdered by defendant Charles E. McGhee, her husband. After killing his wife, the defendant attempted to burn down the family residence to destroy evidence of his crime. He set three separate fires in the basement, while their young daughter slept upstairs. The daughter awoke to the sound of the fire alarm and walked out of her bedroom to see the defendant fleeing the scene of the murder.

On February 1, 2018, Charles McGhee pled Guilty to 1st Degree Murder and 1st Degree Arson. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Mr. McGhee will be immediately transferred to state prison to begin serving his sentence.

“It is the wish of Courtney McGhee’s family that she be remembered as a caring, giving, devoted mother and a provider for her family,” said District Attorney Bernie Cantorna. “This was a tragic and senseless murder that reminds us that we must all be aware of the insidiousness, silence and danger that domestic violence poses.”

“If you or someone you know is in a relationship that appears abusive, controlling and potentially dangerous, you should presume that in fact, it is. If you are in a relationship where you feel you are unsafe, presume that you are,” Cantorna said. Ending a relationship is the most dangerous thing for victims of domestic violence and it is critical that leaving be done with planning and forethought. For those experiencing domestic violence or threats of violence, it is imperative that you contact advocates at the Centre County Women’s Resource Center or other professionals to help you with safety planning when leaving. Advocates will help you plan how to leave, what to take with you and how to protect yourself and your children.

It is imperative that threats of violence be taken seriously. Threats by an abusive partner to kill him or herself also indicate an escalated risk. The tragic death of Courtney McGhee is a reminder to our community that controlling and abusive behavior poses great risks to the persons trapped in these relationships. The greatest risk occurs when the victim is ready to leave. If you or anyone else finds themselves ready to leave an abusive relationship, the family of Courtney McGhee asks you to please contact the Centre County Women’s Resource Center or other qualified professionals to ask for help before doing so.

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Following a two-day jury trial, Anthony Holmes, Jr., 26, of Harrisburg was found guilty of sexual assault. Detective John Aston of the State College Police Department filed the charges.

The Commonwealth charged Anthony Holmes with 1 count of Rape, 18 § 3121(A)(1) (F1); 1 count of Sexual Assault, 18 §3124.1 (F2); and 1 count of Simple Assault, 18 § 2701(A) (M2). It was alleged that during Arts Fest on July 11, 2015, Anthony Holmes sexually assaulted a woman in State College.

On January 30, 2018, a jury found Mr. Holmes guilty of sexual assault. Trial counsel for the Commonwealth was District Attorney Bernie Cantorna and Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw. Mr. Cantorna stated, “This is a case that dates back to 2015, involving serious allegations that were a priority of our office.”

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