By Mark Gilger

SHAMOKIN - Two city men previously charged in connection with fires on North Shamokin Street in January were formally arraigned Tuesday by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III.

James L. Neidlinger, 21, was recommitted to Northumberland County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail after being arraigned on arson and related charges stemming from blazes at 717 N. Shamokin St. on Sept. 5 and at the former Hardshell Cafe and an adjacent building in the 400 block of North Shamokin Street on the evening of Jan. 24. He was already in prison on $200,000 bail related to a third arson fire on Jan. 28, for which he was already arraigned.

Neidlinger, whose last known address is 203 E. Dewart St., was given an application by the judge for a public defender and presented copies of the criminal complaints filed against him by Patrolman Raymond Siko II, who also is the city's fire investigator. Gembic set Neidlinger's preliminary hearing for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The defendant told the judge he understood the charges and did not have any questions.

As Gembic read the offenses to Neidlinger, the defendant shook his head when burglary was mentioned, claiming he did not commit that crime. Burglary can be charged for illegal entry into a building.

Neidlinger, who was wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and orange county prison jumpsuit, also was charged by Siko with an arson fire that destroyed a triple home in the 600 block of East Sunbury Street near Franklin Street on Jan. 28.

He has been incarcerated since Jan. 29 on a probation detainer and $200,000 cash bail in connection with the Sunbury Street fire.

Gembic said he plans to conduct one hearing for all the charges.

Kish remains free

Kevin Kish, 50, of 704 N. Shamokin St., Apt. 1, who was previously charged by Siko in connection with a Jan. 24 fire at the corner of North Shamokin and Sunbury streets, across the street from his apartment, turned himself into authorities and was formally arraigned on the charges.

Kish was released on $5,000 unsecured bail.

Kish is charged with felonies of burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass relating to the 4:24 a.m. fire that caused extensive damage to the first floor of a vacant property at 725 N. Shamokin St.

Kish was not charged with arson because he allegedly didn't intentionally set the fire, which was ignited by a lit cigarette, police said.

On Feb. 5, Kish and Robert A. Zellers III, 20, of Coal Township, were charged by Shamokin police with two felony counts each of burglary, criminal trespass and conspiracy to commit burglary, and a misdemeanor of loitering and prowling at night in connection with the theft of copper wire from 169 N. Grant St. and a burglary at Nature's Health Food Store, 133-135 E. Independence St.

The defendants, who were apprehended by police in the basement of Nature's Health Food Store while allegedly committing the burglary during the early morning hours of Feb. 5, waived their rights to a preliminary hearing on the charges Feb. 12 before Gembic.

While at the hearing, Zellers, who was Kish's cell mate at the county prison, told Siko that Kish admitted to him that he started the fire at 725 N. Shamokin St.

Kish was released from the county prison on the day of his preliminary hearing when Gembic reduced his bail on the burglary charges from $10,000 cash to unsecured, which means he did not have to post any monetary bail. Kish's hearing on the charges related to the fire is set for Tuesday as well.

Zellers was recommitted to county jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail after waiving his hearing last month. The defendant was released from prison after posting bail Feb. 28.