- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A northeastern Pennsylvania man awaiting trial in a double slaying, whose exploits have included a prison escape and acquittal in another double homicide case, was charged Monday with trying to intimidate and manipulate witnesses from behind the bars of a state prison.

The state attorney general’s office filed 19 counts against Hugo Selenski, and also charged his defense lawyer Shelley Centini and private investigator James Sulima with the same offenses. A grand jury report referred to the three as “triad of treachery.”

The jury report said Centini and Sulima met with four of “the most damning and significant witnesses” at a Larksville bar in July 2012 to show them handwritten letters from Selenski, missives the witnesses could read but were not allowed to keep, and documents that have since disappeared.

The messages in those letters, according to the grand jury, included direction to change testimony or “shut up” and references to the witnesses’ family members. The jury said Centini opposed disclosure of those letters to the grand jury, then said after a judge ordered her to produce them that they were lost.

Centini’s claim that these letters were harmless greetings from an incarcerated serial killer is preposterous and materially false,” the grand jury wrote, although Selenski has not been convicted of any killings. “The idea that Selenski simply wished to make ‘introductions’ after almost a decade of incarceration on murder charges is absurd.”

Selenski, 40, has been in the public eye in northeastern Pennsylvania for more than a decade, since authorities dug up the remains of several people - perhaps a dozen, many badly burned - from the yard outside his home in Dallas, a small town outside Wilkes-Barre.

He subsequently escaped from the county jail by using a rope of bed sheets in 2003 and spent several days at large, and was acquitted of a double homicide in 2006.

Prosecutors have scheduled a trial for March in a long-delayed homicide trial in which he faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

The 13-page grand jury report said Selenski has inspired “a cult-like following of supporters willing to go to great lengths on his behalf.”

Centini, it said, was appointed by a judge to represent Selenski in early 2012 for the pending trial, the alleged slaying in 2002 of pharmacist Michael J. Kerkowski Jr. and his girlfriend Tammy Fassett, whose bodies were unearthed from his property.

The grand jury alleged that throughout Centini’s representation of Selenski, she “was actively engaged in unethical and criminal conduct.”

The report claimed that she gave one potential witness against him money and told another witness “that Selenski was angry with the witness for prior statements to police.”

Selenski and Centini worked in concert to see the prosecution of Selenski undermined through whatever means necessary,” the jury wrote.

The two, and Sulima - a former Pittston police detective - were charged with five counts of witness intimidation, five counts of solicitation of perjury, and perjury, obstruction, theft, evidence tampering and conspiracy.

Centini, Selenski and Sulima acted in concert,” the grand jury wrote. “Together as part of an ongoing conspiracy of criminal acts, this triad of treachery circumvented the law and professional ethics in intimidating witnesses and obstructing justice.”

Sulima, reached by phone at his office, declined to comment. Centini did not return a message left as her office, nor did another lawyer who has represented Selenski recently.

In 2006, a jury acquitted Selenski of the murders of two other people whose bodies were found on the property, but convicted him of abusing their corpses. Selenski is currently serving 32 1/2 to 65 years for a Monroe County home invasion and robbery.

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