Case Against Man Charged with Arson, Brother’s Murder Headed to Trial

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SCRANTON -- A murder case that reads like a script for a crime show played out in Lackawanna County court on Friday.

A man from Scranton is charged with his brother's murder after that brother died from burn wounds after they made a deal to commit arson.

The Ceballos family from Scranton was at the courthouse in the city for a preliminary hearing. They're representing both the victim and the defendant in this case.

The murder charge and arson charges against the older Ceballos brother are headed to trial, but the defense questioned if the murder charge should still stand.

Inside the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, Diomedes Ceballos sat silently listening to a translator as investigators explained why they charged him with second degree murder and arson.

The fire led to the death of the alleged arsonist, Diomedes' younger brother, Aurelio.

"The victim, from what I understand, has a history of drug abuse and some criminality and his older brother has always been there to help them out," defense attorney Bill Thompson said.

Prosecutors say before he died from third-degree burns covering his body, Aurelio Ceballos told a friend his brother offered him $5,000 to burn down the house in west Scranton.

319 12th Avenue is just an empty lot now, but in court, a Scranton firefighter testified about that July night when the Ceballos home was engulfed in flames.

Neighboring houses almost caught fire, too. Firefighters were shocked by electrical wires. One was injured so badly he is still off the job.

Aurelio was eventually found dead three miles away in the Valley View Estates apartments and investigators are trying to prove his brother initiated this botched plan to get insurance money.

In court, investigators read a recorded conversation between Diomedes and a friend.

"He eventually says, 'I'll get back to you. You have to wait until the insurance gets back to me, but no word of this. This dies here,' which indicates guilt to us," Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Brian Gallagher said.

But the defense doesn't think one brother should be charged for the death of the other--who could have committed his own criminal act.

"It's difficult that it's the same family, but at least we know the truth," Gallagher said.

After the hearing today, a judge decided that though mostly circumstantial, there is enough evidence to send this case on to trial.

1 Comment

  • gutterratt

    “The Ceballos family from Scranton was at the courthouse in the city for a preliminary hearing. They’re representing both the victim and the defendant in this case.” Well that’s a mind fffffttt isn’t it?

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