A charismatic ex-con who was found with at least five sets of human remains buried in his yard was acquitted of murder Wednesday but convicted of abusing the corpses of two suspected drug dealers.
The jury deadlocked on one count of first-degree murder, but the judge declared a mistrial and said Hugo Selenski could not be retried.
Selenski’s relatives broke out in sobs as the verdict was read.
Prosecutors had accused Selenski of luring Frank James, 29, and Adeiye Keiler, 22, to his home north of Wilkes-Barre with the intention of robbing them of drugs and money. The prosecutions said he shot both men, then tossed their bodies into a firepit and burned the remains with the help of another man, Patrick Russin.
Russin, who pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, was the prosecution’s star witness against Selenski — and the only eyewitness to the alleged crimes. Selenski’s attorney painted him as a liar out to frame the defendant.
D.A. uses charred bones in argument
In his closing argument, Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Brian McMonagle urged jurors to convict despite their feelings about Russin. He said the blaze set to cover the killer’s tracks was “hot enough to turn two human beings into this,” holding out a metal tray of charred bones burned clean of DNA.
But defense attorney Demetrius Fannick noted in his closing argument that Selenski’s neighbors testified they heard no gunshots and saw no fire.
Authorities were led to Selenski’s property while investigating the disappearance of Michael Kerkowski, a pharmacist linked to drug dealing who had been missing since 2002, and Kerkowski’s girlfriend Tammy Lynn Fassett. Their corpses were unearthed from a shallow grave near Selenski’s house.
Selenski has not been charged with those deaths but he is considered a suspect. In court papers, prosecutors have said they believe Selenski strangled and robbed them in 2002.
Other human remains found in the yard have yet to be identified.
Selenski’s aunt, Mary Kay Ash, 41, said she was thrilled with the verdict.
“I’m ecstatic and relieved it’s over. The family has known all along he wasn’t guilty. We’ve stuck by him,” she said.