Man pleads to manslaughter in deaths of 2 found after fire

PITTSBURGH — A man has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of two men authorities say he fought with and whose bodies were found after a Pittsburgh house fire more than three years ago.

Court documents indicate that 61-year-old Vincent Smith also pleaded guilty Monday in Allegheny County Court to four counts of arson-endangering persons in connection with the February 2018 blaze in the Point Breeze neighborhood.

Other charges including aggravated arson and abuse of a corpse were withdrawn as part of a plea agreement. The Allegheny County district attorney’s office said there was no agreement in place on sentencing, which has been scheduled for June 30.

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Authorities alleged that Smith was fighting with 71-year-old homeowner Steven Pariser and 54-year-old John Robert Van Dyke over marijuana when he beat them and threw them down the basement steps, hiding their bodies with trash bags and clothes before starting the fire. Investigators found both men had blunt force injuries and their deaths were ruled homicides.

Van Dyke’s brother had reported him missing and officers traced his cellphone to the row home, authorities said. Officers say after they entered the home, they saw Smith striking matches and tossing them to the floor. One ignited in a pool of lighter fluid, and officers retreated as the house caught fire, authorities said in a criminal complaint.

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Smith was rescued and taken to UPMC Mercy’s burn unit in critical condition. Pariser and Van Dyke’s bodies were found after the blaze.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Berosh told the court Monday that when Smith was interviewed by detectives, he had fresh scratches on his hand and a bite mark, as well as bruising on his body, the Tribune-Review reported.

Smith told Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani that he set the fire in an effort to harm himself, not anyone else.