WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A confessed killer told a jury Tuesday he helped a man torture and kill a pharmacist and the pharmacist's girlfriend as part of a plot to rob him of tens of thousands of dollars he had made from illegal drug sales.
Paul Weakley testified that he helped Hugo Selenski kill Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett and bury their bodies in Selenski's yard more than a dozen years ago.
Weakley, 46, avoided a potential death sentence by pleading guilty to federal charges in connection with the case. While prosecutors can petition for a reduction of his life sentence based on his cooperation, Weakley said Tuesday he expects to spend the rest of his days in prison.
"The truth is all I have left to give," Weakley said.
The defense calls Weakley a liar — and the sole culprit in the homicides.
Weakley acknowledged under cross examination that he misled investigators early in the investigation because he wanted to avoid getting caught.
"My stories had a lot of holes in them," he said. "I told numerous lies."
Selenski, 41, has been in custody since June 2003, when authorities found the bodies of Kerkowski, Fassett, and at least three other sets of human remains on his property north of Wilkes-Barre. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Weakley said it was "strictly money" that led him and Selenski to the pharmacist's house.
Kerkowski had pleaded guilty to running a prescription drug ring out of his Wyoming County pharmacy and was awaiting sentencing when his family reported him missing in May 2002.
Kerkowski considered Selenski his best friend, but Selenski held a different view, Weakley told the jury.
"Mr. Selenski hated Mr. Kerkowski. It wasn't a friendship at all. It was a financial relationship," he said.
Selenski told Kerkowski he could help the pharmacist with his court case, and Kerkowski gave him tens of thousands of dollars for legal work that Selenski never performed, Weakley said.
Selenski told Weakley that Kerkowski had "millions of dollars stashed at his house," Weakley said, and he wanted Weakley's help in robbing and killing Kerkowski before the pharmacist headed to prison.
Weakley said he initially thought it a bad idea, assuming police would easily link Selenski to the crime.
Then, in late April 2002, Selenski's girlfriend wrote a $10,000 check for the purchase of a house even though she only had a few hundred dollars in her account. Selenski promised her the money would be there, Weakley said.
This time, Weakley said, he agreed to help Selenski. The pair plotted to rob Kerkowski, kill him and dispose of his body to make it look like he had fled to avoid prison.
"I thought it was a pretty good idea," Weakley said.
But when they arrived at Kerkowski's home, the pharmacist's girlfriend, Fassett, also was there. That wasn't part of the plan, Weakley said, but he and Selenski agreed that "she was just going to be a victim of our crime now."
Weakley took her to an upstairs bedroom and bound her with flex ties.
"She asked me why are we doing this. She was scared out of her mind," Weakley said. He said he reassured her they were only interested in robbing Kerkowski and that she would be fine.
Weakley said he bound the pharmacist with flex ties and duct tape, covered his eyes with the tape, beat him with a rolling pin and choked him until he told them the location of about $60,000 in cash he kept in his house.
Selenski then ratcheted a flex tie around Kerkowki's neck "as tight as it possibly could be," killing the pharmacist, Weakley said. Selenski went upstairs and killed Fassett, he said.
Weakley kept about $40,000, Selenski got $20,000, and together they buried the bodies, he said.
Selenski squinted and scowled at Weakley as he testified.
Weakley's willingness to take the stand had been in question in the runup to the trial.
He has been attacked in prison over his cooperation, and an inmate who did time with Selenski pleaded guilty last year to trying to hire a hit man to kill him in prison. Days before jury selection, Weakley told prosecutors he would refuse to testify.