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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A man charged with killing a Pennsylvania pharmacist and the pharmacist's girlfriend used plastic ties to restrain a jeweler during a 2003 home invasion and robbery — the same kind prosecutors say he had used to strangle his victims months earlier.
Hugo Selenski is on trial in the slayings of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett, who prosecutors allege were killed as part of a plot to rob the pharmacist of proceeds from an illegal prescription drug ring.
Selenski is already serving decades in prison for robbing jeweler Samuel Goosay, who testified Wednesday in the murder trial about Selenski's brutal and bizarre behavior during the robbery. He was the prosecution's last witness; the defense is expected to begin its case Thursday.
Kerkowski and Fassett were reported missing in May 2002, shortly before he was to be sentenced on drug charges. Authorities found their bodies — along with at least three other sets of human remains — on Selenski's property north of Wilkes-Barre about a year later.
Selenski has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Another man, Paul Weakley, has pleaded guilty in the homicides and the Goosay robbery, and he testified against Selenski.
On the witness stand Wednesday, Goosay said two masked men forced their way into his home as he was eating dinner, bound his hands with plastic ties and put duct tape around his eyes. He said one of the men — whom he later identified as Selenski — threatened him with a gun, saying, "I'm going to kill you if you don't cooperate."
Goosay provided the code to the jewelry store's security system but withheld the additional steps needed to avoid tripping the silent alarm.
After finding about $800 in Goosay's pocket, Weakley drove to the jewelry store in Goosay's car while Selenski stayed behind, prosecutors said. As Selenski rifled through some dresser drawers, Goosay pushed the duct tape off one eye, spied the assailant's gun on top of the dresser, grabbed it and put it to Selenski's head.
But Selenski lunged for the gun and Goosay, now 71, was no match for the younger, stronger man. Selenski beat Goosay, bound his feet and sat him on his bed, Goosay testified.
That's when the robbery took a bizarre turn.
Selenski saw a pack of cigarettes in Goosay's shirt pocket and asked for one, Goosay said.
"I said, 'As long as I can have one,'" he recalled.
Selenski put a cigarette in Goosay's mouth and lit it. The two men smoked and chatted about the stock market and international finance, Goosay said.
"We had what I thought was a very intelligent discussion," he said.
Then the phone rang. It was the security company — Weakley had tripped the alarm, and police had been dispatched.
Selenski clobbered Goosay with the gun and fled the house, Goosay said.
Jurors will be permitted to consider Goosay's testimony as possible evidence of Selenski's "signature or modus operandi" in the homicides, Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni III said.
Prosecutors are taking a second crack at Selenski after he beat homicide charges in 2006. Selenski was charged with killing two accused drug dealers whose charred remains were also found on his property. A jury acquitted him of one homicide and deadlocked on another but convicted him of abusing the men's corpses.
The fifth body found on Selenski's property has never been publicly identified.