WILKES-BARRE – More than a decade after their bodies were found in his backyard – and after the brazen jailbreak, tedious legal wrangling and stunning acquittal that followed – a notorious Pennsylvania bank robber is going to trial for the murders of a drug-dealing pharmacist and the pharmacist’s girlfriend.
Jury selection in Hugo Selenski’s capital trial is scheduled to start Monday in Wilkes-Barre, about eight miles from where investigators found the bodies of Michael Kerkowski, Tammy Fassett and at least three other people in June 2003.
Questions remain about the admissibility of police statements from a co-defendant who prosecutors say is reluctant to testify after Selenski allegedly solicited a cellmate to hire a hit man and have him killed.
Under a plea agreement, Paul Weakley must also cooperate with all Selenski prosecutions.
Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni must also decide whether prosecutors can show jurors preliminary hearing testimony from a witness who recently died.
Pierantoni, at least the sixth judge to handle the case, has said he opposes another delay.
It’s the closest the 41-year-old Selenski has been to trial for Kerkowski and Fassett’s deaths.
A jury acquitted him in 2006 in the shotgun deaths of two other people found in his Kingston Township yard, drug dealers Frank James and Adeiye Keiler, but found that he had abused their corpses by burning them in a pit.
Selenski is already serving 32 1/2 to 65 years in state prison for a January 2003 home invasion in the Poconos where prosecutors say he and Weakley also bound their victim with duct tape and plastic flex ties in an attempt to steal thousands of dollars in cash.
The state Supreme Court in September ordered a lower court to reconsider whether Selenski’s lawyer in that case should have been allowed to call an expert witness casting doubt on the recollection of an eyewitness.
Selenski pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges related to his escape from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility on a rope of bed sheets.
He had remained at large for three days in October 2003 as his attorney and law enforcement officials pleaded on television for him to turn himself in.