- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A suspect in the murders of five persons whose bodies were found in his back yard escaped from prison 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 target of a massive manhunt yesterday after escaping from his seventh-floor cell at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.

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

The prison, about 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.

At least 50 officers, some in hovercraft on the river, were pursuing the escapee. Sheriff’s Deputy John Chaumpi said a police bloodhound, using items from the escapee’s prison cell, had picked up Selenski’s scent a couple of blocks from the jail early yesterday.

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

“[Mr. 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,” Mr. Fannick said. “I would just urge him to contact me and urge him to surrender himself immediately, not to do anything stupid.”

The lawyer 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,” Mr. Fannick said. “She is also asking him to turn himself in.”

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

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

As dawn broke yesterday, the green mattress could be seen draped over the fence, and the knotted sheets were hanging from the escapees’ window.

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

“They were supposed to be escape-proof,” Mr. Fischi said of the cells.

Prosecutors said Selenski, 30, and a friend, Patrick Russin, 33, shot two of the men found in Selenski’s back yard as part of a plot to make money by kidnapping and robbing drug dealers.

Selenski previously had 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. Mr. Russin also was cooperating in the investigation.

Investigators say Mr. Weakley led police to two more bodies at Selenski’s home and claimed to know 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 Mr. James, Mr. Keiler and a third victim were found in garbage bags on Selenski’s property, according to court documents. Authorities wouldn’t say whether they have identified the third body.

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