Homicide

Defense works to spare life of man convicted in strangulation deaths of pharmacist, girlfriend

Hugo Selenski is led into the Luzerne County Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, for the second day of the penalty phase in his double murder trial. A jury on Wednesday spared the life of Selenski, convicted of strangling pharmacist Michael Kerkowski and his girlfriend, Tammy Fassett, during a robbery at the pharmacist's home in 2002 and burying their bodies in his yard, granting a defense request to show mercy despite the brutal nature of the crimes. He will serve life without parole.(AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Mark Moran) MANDATORY CREDIT: THE CITIZENS' VOICE, MARK MORAN

Hugo Selenski is led into the Luzerne County Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, for the second day of the penalty phase in his double murder trial. A jury on Wednesday spared the life of Selenski, convicted of strangling pharmacist Michael Kerkowski and his girlfriend, Tammy Fassett, during a robbery at the pharmacist's home in 2002 and burying their bodies in his yard, granting a defense request to show mercy despite the brutal nature of the crimes. He will serve life without parole.(AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Mark Moran) MANDATORY CREDIT: THE CITIZENS' VOICE, MARK MORAN  (The Associated Press)

Attorneys for a northeastern Pennsylvania man convicted in the 2002 strangulation deaths of a pharmacist and his girlfriend are trying to persuade a jury to spare his life.

Hugo Selenski's relatives are testifying Wednesday at the penalty phase of his capital murder trial. They call him a good father and brother even behind bars.

Prosecutors say the 41-year-old Selenski and another man strangled Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett with plastic ties during a robbery. Police found their bodies, along with at least three other sets of human remains, in Selenski's yard in 2003.

The jury convicted Selenski on two counts of first-degree murder. Pennsylvania's governor recently declared a moratorium on the death penalty, but the law remains on the books and prosecutors want jurors to send him to death row.