Defendant denies arson charges in 2014 Kane fire

Ted Lutz
Staff Writer

SMETHPORT — A former Kane resident has denied arson-related charges in a 2014 fire that severely damaged her two-story house at 432 Tionesta Ave., Kane.
Holly Lynn Gausman, 44, took the witness stand for more than 100 minutes Tuesday in her trial in McKean County Court in Smethport.
Answering questions posed by defense attorney Joseph Ryan of Reynoldsville, Gausman said she never plotted with her mother to "burn the house down."
Gausman, who now resides in Grampian in Clearfield County, said she was "crying" after learning that her house was on fire on Nov. 7, 2014. This fire-damaged house has since been demolished.
Gausman faces eight charges — all felonies related to the alleged arson and insurance fraud totaling $347,280.03.
Testimony in the three-day trial is expected to wind up today. The case is then expected to go to the jury of seven women and five men.
According to court documents, Gausman also is known as Holly Lynn Woolcock and Holly Lynn Lubert, which is her maiden name. She has four children, including three who live with her at a house in Grampian.
In her testimony, Gausman said she and her mother — Karen Louise Hatten of Brockway — were in Smethport when the fire erupted in her house in Kane.
The defendant said she and her mother had taken two dogs to a veterinarian in Smethport for shots. She said they also stopped at other stores. No one was at home at the time of the fire, it was noted.
Based on testimony Monday and Tuesday, the fire has created a major rift in the family. 
Seth Woolcock, the 20-year-old son of the defendant, testified Monday against his mother and again Tuesday. Hatten also testified Tuesday against her daughter.
Hatten, 63, also was charged in the fire. Earlier this year, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson with the intent to collect insurance. She served five months in the McKean County Jail.
According to court records, Hatten admitted to State Police Assistant Fire Marshal Kathleen Watters that she was involved in "planning and setting the fire with Gausman."
Gausman's two youngest children testified Tuesday in support of their mother. 
Judy McCombs, Gausman's aunt of Grampian, and Kim Hepfer, Gausman's cousin from Curwensville, also backed the defendant in their testimony.
Gausman, who formerly owned a flower shop in Kane, admitted that she made plans to move to Clearfield County. After the fire, said she and her children and mother stayed briefly at the Kane Motel before temporarily moving in with Gausman's fiance — Ryan Houser of Clearfield.
Gausman said she later moved to a rental unit in the Clearfield area before buying the house in Grampian.
Called to testify for the prosecution, Houser said he and Gausman had a "long-distance relationship" and at one point were "engaged." They later ended the relationship.

For full article, check the Oct. 31, 2018 printed or e-edition of The Kane Republican.