Charges added in apartment fire case

A 53-year-old city man in the Lycoming County Prison charged with criminal homicide for allegedly causing the death of his wife in an apartment fire faces more charges as an investigator believes he killed her before setting the building ablaze to cover his tracks.

Michael W. Wright allegedly used a knife or sharp object to cause multiple wounds and injuries to Lynn Wright, 53, according to an affidavit filed by city Agent Trent R. Peacock.

The blaze broke out about 10:35 p.m. Oct. 25 and Wright’s body was discovered in the couple’s first-floor apartment in a bedroom shortly before midnight, police said. The fire was declared under control about the same time.

Wright was arraigned Friday by District Judge James G. Carn after Peacock received permission from District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt to withdraw the original charge of criminal homicide and refile the additional charges.

The additional charges include homicide, two counts each of aggravated assault, four counts of arson and one count each of risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, possessing and instrument of crime with intent, abuse of a corpse, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and obstruction of justice.

Wright is alleged to have assaulted his wife by using sharp and blunt instruments and starting the fire endangering the lives of Debra DelJonovan, who lived in the two-unit apartment house, and emergency personnel fighting the fire that destroyed the residence.

Wright set the fire with his wife’s body in the building, according to Peacock, in order to “destroy evidence of a homicide.”

The bedroom was determined to be the place of origin of the fire. A dog with the Dauphin County District Attorney’s office detected debris in the bedroom and presence of an ignitable liquid. The cause of the fire was ruled to be incendiary.

When family members rushed to a nearby bar where Wright had gone after allegedly setting the building on fire he was heard saying he had killed his wife and he seemed unfazed, according to the investigator.

An autopsy done on the woman at Lehigh Valley Medical Center determined she was dead prior to the fire, police said.

Following the arraignment, Wright was sent back to prison without bail being set. Only a county judge can set bail in a case of homicide.

A preliminary hearing tentatively has been set for 9 a.m. Nov. 21. Because of the nature of the case, it may be held at the courthouse.

Linhardt is scheduled to prosecute the case while Wright has chosen George E. Lepley Jr. as his defense attorney.