WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – A notorious Pennsylvania inmate found with at least five sets of human remains buried in his yard nearly a dozen years ago will stand trial on charges he strangled two of the victims, including a pharmacist who had called the defendant his best friend.
Prosecutors allege Hugo Selenski killed Michael Kerkowski and Kerkowski's girlfriend, Tammy Lynn Fassett, then stole tens of thousands of dollars that Kerkowski had given to his father for safekeeping.
Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday. The trial is expected to last several weeks. Selenski, 41, has pleaded innocent to homicide, robbery and related counts. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Selenski has been a household name in northeastern Pennsylvania since 2003, when an informant led authorities to his property north of Wilkes-Barre. There, they found the corpses of Kerkowski and Fassett in a shallow grave, plastic ties around their necks.
Investigators searched the rest of the yard and found additional bodies — at least five and as many as 12 in all.
Prosecutors took an initial crack at Selenski in 2006, when he stood trial in the slayings of two of the victims found in the yard. Prosecutors contended Selenski shot the men — both of them suspected drug dealers — then burned the remains with the help of another man who pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and testified against Selenski.
After a jury acquitted Selenski of one homicide and deadlocked on another, prosecutors immediately charged him in the deaths of Kerkowski and Fassett.
Kerkowski, who once called Selenski his best friend, had pleaded guilty to selling more than 330,000 doses of painkillers without prescriptions and was awaiting sentencing when he and Fassett disappeared.
A few months after his 2003 arrest, Selenski escaped from prison using a rope fashioned from bed sheets and remained on the loose for three days before turning himself in.
He has been serving a sentence of 32 1/2 to 65 years on a conviction in a Monroe County home invasion and robbery.