WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — Defense attorneys for a man charged with strangling a Pennsylvania pharmacist and the pharmacist's girlfriend sought Friday to undermine the credibility of the prosecution's key witness, a man who testified he helped the defendant kill the victims and bury their bodies.
Prosecutors allege Hugo Selenski, 41, and another man, Paul Weakley, tortured Michael Kerkowski as part of a robbery, then killed him and his girlfriend, Tammy Fassett. They say the two men buried the victims behind Selenski's house north of Wilkes-Barre, where authorities also found at least three other sets of human remains in 2003.
Selenski's lawyers are calling witnesses they hope will convince a jury that Weakley lied about Selenski's involvement.
Weakley, who pleaded guilty in federal court and was spared the death penalty in exchange for his testimony against Selenski, has already admitted to the jury that he lied repeatedly early in the investigation in hopes of escaping punishment.
Luzerne County Detective Lt. Richard Capitano told jurors Friday that Weakley lied "to insulate himself" from the homicides, but changed his story when authorities confronted him with his lies. Eventually, Weakley came clean and provided details of the slayings that were corroborated by police, Capitano said.
Another witness, inmate Caine Pelzer, testified that Weakley — facing abuse behind bars because of his cooperation with police — once forged a court document in hopes of showing other inmates that "Hugo Selenski is a rat and he's not the rat." Pelzer said he informed Selenski's defense team of the forgery.
Prosecutors allege Selenski and Weakley stole tens of thousands of dollars from Kerkowski. The pharmacist had pleaded guilty to running an illegal prescription drug ring and was about to be sentenced when he and Fassett were reported missing in May 2002.
Weakley led police to the bodies in Selenski's yard about a year later.
After his arrest, Selenski was initially charged with killing a pair of reputed drug dealers whose charred remains were also found on the property. In 2006, a jury acquitted him of one homicide and deadlocked on another but convicted him of abusing the men's corpses.
After that verdict, authorities immediately charged him with killing Kerkowski and Fassett.
He is already serving decades in prison for an unrelated robbery.