- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — An inmate who escaped down a 60-foot rope of bedsheets removed a seventh-floor jail window without the aid of any tools, and similar windows are vulnerable, the warden said yesterday.

Hugo Selenski, suspected of killing five persons found buried in his yard, escaped Friday by climbing down a rope assembled from 12 prison-issue bedsheets, Luzerne County Correctional Facility Warden Gene P. Fischi said. Selenski remained at large yesterday.

The escape occurred about 9:30 p.m., near the end of a two-hour period in which cells are unlocked and inmates in the overcrowded maximum-security unit can socialize.

Selenski, 30, and cellmate Scott Bolton walked into another inmate’s unoccupied cell and removed the same window that had been taken out in a failed 1990 escape attempt, Warden Fischi said. The 1990 attempt prompted the jail to weld windows to their frames, install bolts and add a layer of wire mesh to the interior.

The warden speculated that the escape cell might have been selected because its window is adjacent to an L-shaped corner of the brick building that would be easier to descend.

Bolton fell about five floors during the escape and suffered broken bones and internal injuries. He was hospitalized in critical condition.

Luzerne County District Attorney David Lupas on Saturday vowed a round-the-clock hunt for Selenski.

“How can something like this occur … in the year 2003, where it seems that an inmate can simply pop a window out of the prison, climb out and run away?” Mr. Lupas said.

Officials were examining the changes made after the 1990 attempt to see why they failed to stop the escape, Warden Fischi said. In the short term, building-perimeter checks and more regular inspections have been added.

It’s not clear how Selenski and Bolton were able to gather the 12 sheets, Warden Fischi said, but four came from their own beds. A few other maximum-security inmates were missing sheets.

Stephen A. Urban, a member of the Luzerne County Prison Board, said he wants to know whether guards missed signs that could have helped uncover the plot.

“Were [the sheets] accumulated over a period of time, or were they simply taken off beds [on Friday night]?” Mr. Urban asked.

Selenski’s defense attorney, Demetrius Fannick, said neither he nor any of Selenski’s family members have had any contact from him. A phone call Selenski made from prison less than two hours before the escape was to his girlfriend, Christina Strom, but she said he did not mention his plans.

“She was completely shocked when the police showed up at her door,” Mr. Fannick said.

Selenski had been in jail since June, when police acting on a tip obtained a search warrant and began digging up bodies in his yard. Prosecutors said two victims were killed in May as part of a plot to kidnap and rob drug dealers. No charges have been filed in the deaths of the other three victims.

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