WILKES-BARRE — A Plains Township woman said she is wrongly being detained on theft charges but declined to respond to reporters’ questions about the whereabouts of her grandmother and what happened to her deceased son.
Linasheri D’Onofrio, 50, placed blame on forging six checks on her grandmother, Mary Mikulak — who hasn’t been seen in years and is presumed dead, state police have said.
D’Onofrio also blamed a man for setting fire to a shed where the skeletal remains of her disabled adult son, Shain D’Onofrio, were found by firefighters earlier this year.
“They are holding me in jail on those checks that I did not sign,” D’Onofrio said as she was being escorted by Luzerne County sheriff deputies to her preliminary hearing on Friday.
She then said another man, whose name has not appeared in court papers, “committed the fire.”
After the proceeding, she continued to say, “I didn’t commit those crimes. I swear I didn’t do it. I didn’t do the checks.”
D’Onofrio is at the center of a mystery investigators are trying to unravel related to the death of Shain and the whereabouts of Mikulak.
Township firefighters discovered skeletal remains after extinguishing a fire at a shed at Lot 232 in the East Mountain Mobile Home Park on Jumper Road on Feb. 24. The rear on Lot 232 connects to the rear of Lot 213, where D’Onofrio resided. State police said DNA analysis identified the remains as those of Shain.
Investigators also learned D’Onofrio’s grandmother, Mikulak, who would be about 100 now, has not been seen by relatives in many years. Family members from New Jersey hired a private investigator in 2011 to find her, but with no success.
Investigators have not been able to locate death records for Mikulak or any human remains.
D’Onofrio allegedly was house sitting for trailer-park neighbor Ronald Heck while he was in a nursing home in 2014.
When Heck returned to his house trailer, he told investigators his credit union statement showed six personal checks totaling $2,890 had been written out to Mikulak and deposited into a Wells Fargo account owned by Mikulak and D’Onofrio, according to court records.
D’Onofrio was charged April 4 on two counts each of forgery and theft.
She appeared before District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo Jr. on Friday when she waived the charges to county court, and was remanded to the county correctional facility for lack of $300,000 bail.
The only development in the mysterious investigation learned Friday was John Pike, a seasoned defense attorney, is assisting attorney Allyson Kacmarski in defending D’Onofrio.
Assistant district attorneys Tony Ross and Michelle Hardik are prosecuting.