Confessed killer testifies against man with bodies in yard
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) -- A confessed killer told a jury Tuesday he helped a man kill a pharmacist and the pharmacist's girlfriend as part of a plot to rob him of tens of thousands of dollars he had made from illegal drug sales.
Paul Weakley testified that he helped Hugo Selenski kill Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett and bury their bodies in Selenski's yard.
Weakley, 46, avoided a potential death sentence by pleading guilty to federal charges in connection with the case. While prosecutors can petition for a reduction of his life sentence based on his cooperation, Weakley said Tuesday he expects to spend the rest of his days in prison.
The defense contends Weakley is the sole culprit, and Selenski's lawyers were expected to subject the prosecution's star witness to fierce cross examination later Tuesday.
Selenski, 41, has been in custody since June 2003, when authorities found the bodies of Kerkowski, Fassett, and at least three other sets of human remains on his property north of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Weakley said it was "strictly money" that led him and Selenski to the pharmacist's house more than a dozen years ago.
Kerkowski had pleaded guilty to running a prescription drug ring out of his Wyoming County pharmacy and was awaiting sentencing when his family reported him missing in May 2002.
Kerkowski considered Selenski his best friend, but Selenski held a different view, Weakley told the jury.
"Mr. Selenski hated Mr. Kerkowski. It wasn't a friendship at all. It was a financial relationship," he said.
Selenski told Kerkowski he could help the pharmacist with his court case, and Kerkowski gave him tens of thousands of dollars for legal work that Selenski never performed, Weakley said. In fact, Selenski would run out the back door whenever Kerkowski came to see him, he said.
Selenski told Weakley that Kerkowski had "millions of dollars stashed at his house," Weakley said, and he wanted Weakey's help in robbing and killing Kerkowski before the pharmacist headed to prison.
Weakley said he initially thought it a bad idea, assuming police would easily link Selenski to the crime.
Then, in late April 2002, Selenski's girlfriend wrote a $10,000 check for the purchase of a house even though she only had a few hundred dollars in her account. Selenski promised her the money would be there, Weakley said.
This time, Weakley said, he agreed to help Selenski. The pair plotted to rob Kerkowski, kill him and dispose of his body to make it look like he had fled to avoid prison.
"I thought it was a pretty good idea," Weakley said.
But when they arrived at Kerkowski's home in Hunlock Creek, the pharmacist's girlfriend, Fassett, also was there. That wasn't part of the plan, Weakley said, but he and Selenski agreed that "she was just going to be a victim of our crime now."
Weakley said he bound the pharmacist with flex ties and duct tape, covered his eyes with the tape, beat him with a rolling pin and choked him until he told them the location of about $60,000 in cash he kept in his house.
Selenski then ratcheted a flex tie around Kerkowki's neck "as tight as it could possibly could be," killing the pharmacist, Weakley said. Selenski went upstairs and killed Fassett, he said.
Selenski squinted and scowled at Weakley as he testified.
Weakley's willingness to take the stand had been in question in the runup to the trial.
He has been attacked in prison over his cooperation, and an inmate who did time with Selenski pleaded guilty last year to trying to hire a hit man to kill him in prison. Days before jury selection, Weakley told prosecutors he would refuse to testify.
Weakley admitted to jurors that he initially lied to investigators about his involvement, telling them that Selenski and a third man committed the homicides and buried the bodies at a high school, and that Weakley then helped rebury the bodies in Selenski's yard.
"I was trying to isolate myself from the crime," he said.