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W-B man will be tried in death of two

February 19. 2013 6:34PM
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WILKES-BARRE ?? A city man charged with setting a fire that killed his girlfriend and her daughter in April 2009 will stand trial on related charges in March, a county judge said Wednesday.

Joseph Derhammer, 42, of East Northampton Street, appeared for a formal arraignment before Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. on two counts of homicide, four counts of arson and a single count of criminal attempt to commit homicide in the case in which prosecutors say Derhammer intentionally set a fire on Chester Street, Wilkes-Barre, that claimed the lives of Carolyn Kostelnick, 23, and her mother, Nancy Kostelnick, 48.

Derhammer entered a not guilty plea to all charges and was scheduled to stand trial beginning on March 4 with jury selection.

Sklarosky said he will issue an order scheduling other hearing dates leading up to the trial.

Assistant District Attorney Molly Hanlon Mirabito is prosecuting the case. Derhammer is represented by attorney Tom Marsilio.

Prosecutors say the Kostelnicks died from smoke inhalation and their bodies were found on the second floor of the home.

Derhammer was allegedly upset that Nancy Kostelnick had thrown him out of the house about two weeks before the blaze. Derhammer was charged in February 2011, nearly two years after the fire.

According to court papers, on April 1, 2009, Nancy Kostelnick told Derhammer to get out of the house.

He returned two days later, demanding money for rent he had paid. Nancy Kostelnick refused, resulting in Derhammer making threats.

A witness allegedly heard Derhammer arguing with Nancy Kostelnick on a phone several days before the deadly blaze.

Hours before the fire, Derhammer allegedly said to a woman as they sat in a motel room, ??I??ll burn her (expletive) house down,? the criminal complaint says.

Investigators said a Chester Street resident saw Derhammer walking away from the Kostelnick house just minutes before the blaze on April 13, 2009.

Derhammer allegedly confessed to his cousin on June 22, 2010, saying, ??I (expletive) up. I should never have done it. I cared for her. I was pissed she didn??t want to be with me, she wanted to be with another guy.?

Derhammer, a sexual offender, was convicted of involuntary sexual intercourse in 1995 and is required to register a residence with state police. He was sentenced in April to 40 to 80 months in state prison after he was convicted by a county jury of failing to register as a sex offender after he was kicked out of the Chester Street house.

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