New trial denied for killer convicted with bodies in yard
Sep. 25, 2015
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A man convicted in the strangulation death of a pharmacist and his girlfriend more than a dozen years ago has been denied a new trial, with a judge rejecting all 12 of the defendant's arguments.
Hugo Selenski, 41, was sentenced to life without parole plus 56 to 120 years in Luzerne County in the May 2002 slayings of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Lynn Fassett.
Prosecutors said Selenski and a co-conspirator beat Kerkowski to compel him to reveal the location of tens of thousands of dollars he kept in his house, and then used flex ties to strangle him and Fassett. Authorities found their decomposing bodies about a year later on property where Selenski lived, along with at least three other sets of human remains.
In 2006, a jury considering the deaths of two among the other three sets of remains convicted Selenski of abusing the men's corpses. The fifth body was never publicly identified.
Selenski petitioned for a new trial citing a dozen grounds, including arguments that the court should not have removed his chosen attorney and that prosecutors should have disclosed plans to "advocate" for his former girlfriend when she was sentenced on federal money laundering and obstruction of justice charges.
Judge Fred Pierantoni III said the removal of attorney Shelley Centini from the case in February 2014 was necessary after she, Selenski and a defense investigator were accused of witness intimidation. The charges were later dismissed, but Centini never returned to the legal team.
Pierantoni also noted that Selenski's former girlfriend, Christina Strom, 42, had reached a plea deal with prosecutors and her cooperation was mandatory, which doesn't suggest that prosecutors suppressed evidence. Prosecutors accused Strom of helping Selenski launder more than $70,000 he obtained through drug trafficking, robbery and the slayings.
The judge, in opinion issued Thursday, also rejected the other 10 reasons Selenski cited as justifying a new trial.