WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — In a jailhouse conversation with his father and brother, Hugo Selenski seemed nonchalant about the slayings of a Pennsylvania pharmacist and the pharmacist's girlfriend, whose bodies had been found buried behind his house along with three other sets of human remains.
"I absolutely deny all the charges, but if I did do it, who gives a f---?" Selenski said, according to a recording played Thursday at Selenski's second murder trial.
Selenski, 41, is charged with strangling Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett in 2002 and robbing the pharmacist of proceeds from an illegal prescription drug ring. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Selenski launched his defense Thursday, and his attorney immediately sought to do damage control by playing more of the 2012 conversation that Selenski had with his family. Selenski's father had just revealed he had cancer, information the defense hopes offers context to Selenski's statement about the homicides. Ronald Selenski died last year.
Another man, Paul Weakley, has pleaded guilty to helping Selenski kill Kerkowski and Fassett and testified against Selenski earlier in the trial. The defense contends Weakley is the sole culprit.
Weakley led police to the bodies on Selenski's property north of Wilkes-Barre in June 2003, on the day that Selenski was preparing to host a graduation party for one of his sisters, Mary Ann Ellis.
Ellis recalled Thursday that workmen were setting up a tent for the party when a convoy of police showed up at the house and handed Selenski a search warrant.
"He immediately looked at me and said, 'Oh my God, they're looking for bodies.' He was very shocked," she testified.
The defense also called several former neighbors who testified they visited the property after police say Selenski and Weakley buried the bodies. The neighbors testified they were never told that any area of the seven-acre parcel was off-limits.
Selenski's sister, 24-year-old Brook Selenski, told a jury she played at her brother's house as a kid, riding all-terrain vehicles and exploring the woods. She said the only restriction her brother ever placed on her was to "always wear a helmet."
And Selenski's brother, Ronald Selenski Jr., testified that Weakley was often on Hugo Selenski's property when Hugo wasn't there — suggesting Weakley could've buried the bodies himself in an attempt to frame his onetime friend.
Prosecutors are taking a second crack at Selenski after he beat homicide charges in 2006. Selenski was charged with killing two accused drug dealers whose charred remains were also found on the property. A jury acquitted him of one homicide and deadlocked on another but convicted him of abusing the men's corpses.
The fifth body found on Selenski's property has never been publicly identified.