Thomas Houck summoned fire department paramedics to his parents’ Academy Gardens home last Dec. 26 to treat his ailing mother Doris.
On the way upstairs, paramedic Paul Paris spotted the covered and motionless figure of a man lying on a mattress on the living room floor and questioned Houck.
Houck identified the man as his 82-year-old father, Leonard, and told Paris, “My father died a couple days ago,” according to Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Naylor.
The medic asked Houck why he hadn’t reported the death sooner. Houck had no explanation.
“He didn’t respond,” Naylor said.
Last week, Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter ordered Thomas Houck to stand trial for murder in the starvation death of his father. It is not known why or how Houck, 57, allegedly deprived his parents of nutrition. But witnesses at a June 26 preliminary hearing revealed the outcome in gruesome detail.
Assistant Medical Examiner Edwin Lieberman testified that Leonard Houck weighed just 79 pounds and was 5 feet 7 inches tall when authorities recovered his remains from the home on the 3400 block of Kirkwood Road. He had died within the previous day or two — just as Thomas Houck had told Paris. The causes of death were malnutrition and dehydration.
Leonard Houck had a small amount of digested food in his stomach, but had no body fat. He had bedsores. His mattress was soiled.
Doris Houck also was malnourished, weighing just 92 pounds at the time. She has gained about 26 pounds since then, but has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She now lives with her daughter and son-in-law.
Authorities allege that it had been a decade since either Houck parent had received medical attention. It may have been almost three years since Thomas Houck had let anyone into the home to see them.
Thomas Houck lived with the couple and presented himself to relatives as their care provider. He had gained control of their financial accounts and had the deed on the house transferred into his name, Naylor said.
And he isolated the couple, refusing to allow even his sister’s husband into the home to see them, according to court testimony.
The brother-in-law, Paul Rieser, testified that Thomas Houck repeatedly turned away his efforts to contact the couple. When Rieser would call the house, Thomas Houck would answer the telephone and offer excuses as to why Rieser could not visit the couple or take them to a restaurant.
“(Houck) would explain, ‘I don’t want to disturb their routine,’” Naylor said.
Other times, nobody answered the telephone. Rieser went to the house too, but Thomas Houck had changed the door locks.
“(Rieser) could see the defendant through the window, but the defendant didn’t answer the door,” Naylor said.
Rieser said that he had last seen Leonard and Doris Houck in early 2009.
No evidence was presented in court regarding Thomas Houck’s employment status or income. Police found food in the kitchen refrigerator, but it is unclear if Leonard and Doris Houck had the ability to feed themselves.
The district attorney’s office filed charges against Houck on March 15 following a lengthy investigation into the suspicious death. He is accused of murder, involuntary manslaughter, felony theft, abuse of corpse and reckless endangerment. He remains in prison without bail and will be arraigned in Common Pleas Court on July 17. ••EndFragment