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Megan's Law offender granted new trial

1-8-2014 Pennsylvania:

A man awaiting trial on homicide charges can have a new trial on his alleged failure to register as a sex offender, the state Superior Court ruled Tuesday.

Joseph Walter Derhammer, 43, is entitled to a new trial because he was apparently not informed he could waive the right to a jury trial, the panel of three state judges determined.

Derhammer is also awaiting trial on criminal homicide charges related to the April 13, 2009 arson fire that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend Nancy Kostelnick, 48, and her daughter Carolyn "C.J." Kostelnick, 23.

Police said the porch of the Kostelnicks' house at 46 Chester St., Wilkes-Barre, was set alight using combustible materials, which created a fast-moving fire. The Kostelnicks died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

While investigating the fire, law enforcement officials discovered Derhammer's alleged failure to register as a sex offender. He committed involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in 1995, records show.

Derhammer had moved out of the Kostelnicks' house on April 1, 2009, but did not register until five days later. Megan's Law requires sex offenders to register within two days of changing addresses.

After a 90-minute trial on March 3, 2011, former Luzerne County judge Lewis Wetzel found Derhammer guilty of the Megan's Law violation. Derhammer appealed, and the commonwealth and superior courts reversed the sentence on the grounds that the record is "devoid of any indication that anyone informed Derhammer of his waiver rights." ..Source.. by

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