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Murder Suspect Flees Pennsylvania Jail

October 11, 2003

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) _ A suspect in the murders of five people whose bodies were unearthed from his backyard escaped from jail by climbing 60 feet down a rope made of bedsheets, officials said.

Hugo Selenski, who was charged Monday with murder in two of the deaths, was the subject of a massive manhunt early Saturday after escaping from his seventh-floor cell at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.

Selenski’s partner in the Friday jailbreak, Scott Bolton, was injured in the escape and hospitalized.

The facility, 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is about a block from the courthouse in downtown Wilkes-Barre and across the street from the Susquehanna River, which officials say Selenski may have used to flee.

Sheriff’s Deputy John Chaumpi said a police bloodhound had picked up Selenski’s scent a couple blocks from the jail early Saturday using items from his prison cell.

County detectives, local police and state police were searching for Selenski.

Carol Crane, a spokeswoman for Luzerne County District Attorney David Lupas, urged the public to be vigilant.

``(Lupas) wants the public to be aware that this is a dangerous individual and if they see anything to call the state police,″ she said.

Selenski’s lawyer, Demetrius Fannick, made a public plea for his client to surrender.

``If he turns himself in, I think we could get back to defending this case. I would just urge him to contact me, and urge him to surrender himself immediately, not to do anything stupid,″ Fannick said.

Fannick said both he and the state police had spoken with Selenski’s girlfriend, Christina Strom, and she knew nothing about the escape or Selenski’s whereabouts.

``She is very upset,″ he said. ``She is also asking him to turn himself in.″

Jail warden Gene Fischi said said Selenski and Bolton broke their 12-inch-by-18-inch cell window, threw a mattress to the ground and shimmied down the rope to a second-story roof.

Bolton, who is charged with stealing ATVs, apparently fell, injuring his ankle, pelvis and ribs; he and was captured on the roof. Selenski used the mattress to scale a 10-foot razor wire, Fischi said.

The seventh-floor of the prison is the maximum-security floor.

``They were supposed to be escape-proof,″ Fischi said of the cells.

Prosecutors say Selenski, 30, and a friend, Patrick Russin, 33, shot two of the men unearthed from the backyard as part of a plot to make money by kidnapping and robbing drug dealers.

Selenski had previously spent seven years in prison on a bank robbery conviction.

Authorities said they were receiving help from a man, Paul Weakley, who was aware of the plot and helped dispose of the bodies. Russin was also cooperating in the investigation.

Investigators say Weakley led police to two more bodies at Selenski’s home, and claimed to have knowledge of at least 12 other murders.

Prosecutors identified the victims of the May slayings as Frank James, 29, and Adeiye Keiler, 22.

The charred remains of James, Keiler and a third victim were found in garbage bags on Selenski’s property, according to court documents. Authorities won’t say whether they have identified the third body.

The other two bodies buried at the house have been identified as Michael Kerkowski, a pharmacist who had been linked to illegal drug sales, and his girlfriend, Tammy Lynn Fassett.

The pair vanished in May 2002, several days before Kerkowski was to be sentenced on charges he sold prescription pills to addicts.

No charges have been filed in those deaths, but prosecutor David Lupas said authorities were making progress in the case. Selenski is considered a suspect in all five slayings.

Fannick has called the charges against his client ``totally unbelievable.″

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