Man Ordered To Trial on Arson, Homicide Charges

WILKES-BARRE — A Wilkes-Barre man will now face charges of homicide and arson in Luzerne County court.

Joseph Derhammer is accused of setting a deadly fire at a home on Chester Street in Wilkes-Barre in 2009.

He was arrested in 2011 and now he has been ordered to stand trial on charges of arson and homicide.

Coming out of his hearing Monday Derhammer said he didn’t do it.

“Joe, you still maintain your innocence on this? Yes I do.  Did you pass a lie detector test? Yes I did.  What happened that night? Didn`t do nothing. You didn`t do it? No I did not,” said Derhammer.

The fire happened more than three years ago on Chester Street in Wilkes-Barre.  Nancy Kostelnick and her 23-year-old daughter Carolyn died.

During the hearing, prosecutors played a 911 call from Carolyn.  On that tape you could hear screaming and coughing from Carolyn and her mom Nancy. Three minutes later the call ended.

According to testimony, a witness told police she saw Derhammer leave the front of the house which has since been torn down, get into his vehicle, and drive away 15 minutes before that 911 call was placed

Derhammer’s attorney Tom Marsilio says the prosecution’s case is full of holes.

“My client passed a polygraph test as well as a voice stress test, both of which should exonerate him from these particular charges.  This case is not over by a long shot. Stay tuned because this is going to be very interesting indeed,” said Marsilio.

Cherri Swainbank just wants justice for her sister Nancy Kostelnick and her niece Carolyn.

“We relive it with our grandchildren every day.  They were young and as they get older you sort of know. They want to know where Gram is and where CJ is. It`s finally coming true that we will see it come to an end,” said Swainbank.

Joseph Derhammer is locked up in the Luzerne County jail.  No trial date has been set. 



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