WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - Lisa Sands stewed and seethed as the man charged with strangling her sister more than a decade ago became a local celebrity - and her family waited for a justice that never seemed to come.
Hugo Selenski gained notoriety with the 2003 discovery of at least five bodies on his northeastern Pennsylvania property. The telegenic convict subsequently escaped from prison using a rope of bedsheets, turned himself in three days later, won acquittal on another pair of homicide charges, and quipped his way through a twisting nine-year legal saga that Sands said has been “very frustrating and very hard on our household.”
“It’s just been sickening. Like it’s all about him and nobody else. Like we don’t even exist anymore,” Sands said Wednesday from Florida, where she was vacationing as Selenski was brought to court yet again.
Selenski, 41, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed Sands’ sister, Tammy Fassett, and Fassett’s boyfriend, a drug-dealing pharmacist named Michael Kerkowski, and buried their bodies in his yard. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Officials summoned 150 potential jurors to the Luzerne County Courthouse, where they filled out a 16-question survey to be reviewed by prosecutors and the defense. The lawyers will begin picking a jury Thursday in a process that’s expected to last several days.
“A long time coming. A real long time,” Selenski told The Associated Press as sheriff’s deputies escorted him through the courthouse Wednesday morning.
Investigators say Selenski strangled Kerkowski and Fassett at Kerkowski’s home in Hunlock Creek in May 2002, then stole tens of thousands of dollars that Kerkowski had given to his father for safekeeping.
Kerkowski, who once called Selenski his best friend, had pleaded guilty to selling more than 330,000 doses of painkillers without prescriptions and was awaiting sentencing when he and Fassett disappeared.
“She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Sands said of her sister and best friend.
Police were led to Selenski’s Kingston Township property by an informant, Paul Weakley, who said he helped Selenski relocate Kerkowski’s and Fassett’s bodies from their original burial place behind Dallas High School. Authorities found the remains of Kerkowski, Fassett and at least three other people.
In 2006, a jury cleared Selenski of the shotgun deaths of two of the people found buried in the yard, but concluded he had abused their corpses by burning them in a pit.
He is already serving 32 1/2 to 65 years in state prison for a 2003 home invasion in the Poconos.
Sands, who turned 50 last month, said she’s happy that Selenski will finally stand trial in her sister’s death.
Sands, the last member of her family to see Fassett alive, plans to return to Pennsylvania to testify.
“I would tell him that he took a very innocent woman from a very happy family,” she said.
Selenski’s attorney didn’t immediately return a phone call Wednesday.
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