WILKES-BARRE — A Plains Township woman who may or may not be cooperating with investigators regarding human remains discovered in a burning shed needs a new lawyer due to a conflict of interest with the Luzerne County Public Defender’s Office, according to a court filing this week.
Chief Public Defender Steven M. Greenwald filed a motion seeking the court to appoint a conflict lawyer to represent Linasheri D’Onofrio.
D’Onofrio, 50, of Lot 213 East Mountain Ridge Mobile Home Park on Jumper Road, was charged earlier this month with stealing checks while house-sitting for a man in 2014 and wrote out nearly $3,000 worth to her elderly mother, Mary Mikulak, according to court records.
A previously filed search warrant links D’Onofrio, who uses multiple names, to an investigation that involves remains found in a shed at Lot 232 in the mobile home park Feb. 24. The rear of Lot 232 connects to the rear of Lot 213.
A forensic anthropologist examined the remains, revealing the bones were those of a small-framed male. They were found with a toddler-size diaper, sweatpants and a stained shirt.
The remains have not been positively identified. No charges have been filed related to the remains.
Township firefighters discovered the remains in the shed while extinguishing a blaze.
Investigators learned from those residing in the mobile home park that D’Onofrio had a son in his 20s with cerebral palsy, and they hadn’t seen the man in recent months prior to the fire.
In the motion seeking to have a new lawyer appointed to represent D’Onofrio, Greenwald stated, “the commonwealth believes that (D’Onofrio) has information regarding the ongoing, separate investigation and the commonwealth would like to question (D’Onofrio) with regard to that knowledge.
“While (D’Onofrio) has not yet decided whether or not to cooperate with the commonwealth, it has been learned that the subject or target of that investigation and (D’Onofrio’s) potential cooperation is a public defender client…” Greenwald wrote without naming the client.
Greenwald stated the defender’s office cannot counsel D’Onofrio or give her any legal advice to cooperate with investigators.
If or when a conflict attorney is appointed, the new lawyer will represent D’Onofrio on forgery-related charges for allegedly stealing checks from Ronald Heck, who lived in a house trailer on Lot 213. She had been represented by attorney Gerald Mecadon, a public defender, who previously filed a motion to modify her bail that was denied by Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. on April 13.
D’Onofrio is being held at the county correctional facility for lack of $300,000 bail on the forgery-related charges.