Lehigh Valley

Deaths of Elderly Woman, Her Son Found Dead in House Fired Ruled Homicides

A 97-year-old woman and her middle-aged son have been ruled homicide victims after a monthlong investigation following a fire that destroyed the woman's Northampton County house, the county district attorney said Monday.

The bodies of Virginia Houck, of Palmer Township, and her son, Roger Houck, who was visiting from his home in Washington state, were found badly burned in the basement after the fire Jan. 4, officials said.

Roger Houck's body was bound and the cause of his death was ruled "homicidal violence" prior to the fire, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said.

The house fire, which destroyed the home, spread quickly because of an accelerant, officials said.

A person of interest is being sought by law enforcement authorities, Morganelli said, but the person was not identified.

Morganelli and other officials said the homicide determination was not released prior to Monday because the autopsies took awhile to complete, and police long believed one or both of the victims were specifically targeted. Officials said they did not think Palmer Township residents or the greater Lehigh Valley community was at risk during the investigation.

"We are confident that this particular household and the occupant or occupants were targeted for this event," Morganelli said. "We have not been able to determine what that motive may have been in that matter but we are working on that angle as well."

Virginia Houck's car was found a few blocks away from her home, officials said, and evidence has been gleaned from it.

Authorities did not release a motive in the killings.

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