Jurors hear openings in case of accused Pennsylvania killer

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 21, 2015 5:32 PM

By Joe McDonald

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (Reuters) - Opening statements started in a Pennsylvania courtroom on Wednesday in the case of an accused killer whose alleged victims were discovered buried in his backyard, prosecutors said.

Hugo Selenski, 41, is on trial in Luzerne County Court for the strangulation and beating deaths of a pharmacist and his girlfriend in 2002.

He faces more than 10 charges including homicide and conspiracy. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett, along with other human remains, in Selenski's backyard in 2003.

Prosecutor Jarrett Ferentino cautioned jurors that they were about to journey through a world of "manipulation, violence and greed."

"It’s a world that leaves its victims bound and broken," Ferentino said. "What you will hear will shock you, will horrify you and will break your heart."

He said the victims were bound and beaten, with their eyes covered with duct tape, and strangled with plastic flex ties.

The motive was to steal money to cover a bad check Selenski's girlfriend had written to buy a house, he said.

Selenski, his head shaved, appeared relaxed as he sat with his attorneys, taking notes and chatting.

The defense suggested in opening statements that another man, Paul Weakley, a friend of Selenski from jail, had committed the murders.

Weakley led authorities to Selenski's house where the remains were discovered. Two other people were also identified from the remains besides Kerkowski and Fassett.

Selenski went on trial in 2006 in a double-homicide case involving the other two. A jury acquitted him of one murder and was unable to reach a verdict on the other.

Kerkowski had disappeared while he awaited sentencing for illegally selling prescription drugs. He and Selenski were friends, the prosecutor said.

Selenski is already serving a prison sentence in the state's Pocono Mountains region for a robbery conviction.

(Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)