A man convicted of strangling a pharmacist and his girlfriend was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole, after the mother of one of the victims called him a "useless waste of space and air" and declared he's "going straight to hell."
Hugo Selenski, 41, was convicted last month of two counts of first-degree murder for killing Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett in 2002 as part of a robbery plot. Their bodies were among at least five sets of human remains found in Selenski's yard north of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 2003.
The gruesome discovery sparked a 12-year journey through the justice system that included a prison escape and a 2006 trial in which Selenski beat two other homicide charges.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Kerkowski's mother, Geraldine Kerkowski, read from a prepared statement at Friday's sentencing but frequently looked Selenski in the eye as she expressed contempt and hatred for her son's killer.
"I know I can be satisfied knowing you will spend eternity suffering in hell, because there is going to be an eye for an eye," said Kerkowski, 71. "Hugo, you know you will be right where you will belong, in hell with Satan because you are the devil in every sense of the word."
As Kerkowski berated him, Selenski glanced toward the rest of the victims' family members and appeared to smirk.
Prosecutors said Selenski and a co-conspirator brutally beat Kerkowski to compel him to reveal the location of tens of thousands of dollars the pharmacist kept in his house, then used plastic flex ties to strangle him and Fassett.
Kerkowski, who considered Selenski his best friend, had pleaded guilty to running an illegal prescription drug ring and was about to be sentenced when he and Fassett were reported missing in 2002.
"I know you have no remorse for what you've done because I can tell by the look on your face right now," Fassett's sister, Lisa Sands, told Selenski in court Friday.
"You get to see your family. I have to go to a gravesite to see my sister. Now do you really think that's fair?" Sands added.
Sam Sanguedolce, Luzerne County's first assistant district attorney, choked up as he read letters written by Kerkowski's two teenage sons.
"I will never have a father for the rest of my existence," said Sanguedolce, reading from Connor Kerkowski's letter. "Nothing will ever be OK."
Judge Fred Pierantoni sentenced Selenski to consecutive life terms plus a maximum of 120 years, ensuring that Selenski will "never again walk the streets of this commonwealth or this community," he said.
Selenski, who maintains his innocence and is planning an appeal, declined to address the judge.
Several months after his arrest, Selenski broke out of the Luzerne County jail by fashioning a rope from bed sheets. He pleaded guilty to escape charges and was sentenced separately Friday to a maximum of three years and five months in prison, time already served.
Selenski was charged in the deaths of Kerkowski and Fassett in 2006 after beating homicide charges for two of the other bodies found in the yard. The fifth set of remains recovered by police was too badly burned and could not be identified.
Weeks after Kerkowski and Fassett disappeared, Selenski approached Kerkowski's parents and claimed their son was alive- and needed money to pay a new defense team, Geraldine Kerkowski testified during the trial. Desperate and trusting, they gave Selenski $60,000, money their son had given to them for safekeeping.
"He knew he killed my son, and for a year he was at our door, looking for money, trying to make us believe that Michael was still alive," Geraldine Kerkowski told the Associated Press this week. "And that just hurts, to think that we were played for such fools."