Saturday, July 12, 2014

Judge considers testimony in arson, homicide case

Attorneys for Joseph Derhammer, 42, ask for suppression of his statements to police.

April 20. 2013 12:32AM

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WILKES-BARRE – A Luzerne County judge on Friday heard testimony in the case of a city man charged with setting a blaze that killed his girlfriend and her daughter in April 2009, as the man’s attorneys sought to suppress statements he made to investigators.

Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. heard testimony in the case of Joseph Derhammer, 42, charged in the deaths of Nancy Kostelnick, 48, and Carolyn Kostelnick, 23, of Chester Street, Wilkes-Barre.

The two women died in a blaze inside their home, which investigators say was intentionally set by Derhammer.

Derhammer’s attorneys, William Watt and Thomas Marsilio, previously had sought to have the statements suppressed because they contend the statements were made in violation of Derhammer’s rights. The statements include discussions Derhammer had with former Wilkes-Barre Deputy Chief Donald Crane, Capt. Robert Zavada and Detective Ronald Foy.

Crane testified Friday he responded to the fire and was approached by Derhammer, who asked what had happened. Derhammer allegedly said his girlfriend lived in the home and that he had been out of town and just returned.

Crane testified he directed Derhammer to see Foy, and that Derhammer was eventually taken to the Wilkes-Barre police headquarters where Foy spoke with him.

Foy testified he talked with Derhammer about a contact he had with Nancy Kostelnick and learned that Derhammer argued with her over rent money. Derhammer said he had been kicked out of the home a few weeks prior and was living with his stepmother on Park Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.

Derhammer allegedly said he told Nancy Kostelnick that he would be back in the morning to take her to a local cemetery where she wanted to place flowers at a grave.

Watt and Marsilio previously had made a number of other requests, but had worked them out with prosecutors, Assistant District Attorneys Molly Hanlon Mirabito and Nancy Violi, before Friday’s hearing.

One outstanding issue was a defense request that charges be dismissed against their client because of a lack of evidence. Sklarosky said he will accept additional court papers on either the suppressed statements or dismissal of charges. He will then issue a ruling at a later date.

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