The state Superior Court on Tuesday denied double homicide suspect Hugo Selenski's motion that sought to dismiss the charges against him.
The decision clears the way for Selenski's trial to start on Sept. 10, although defense attorneys could seek to appeal the latest ruling to the state Supreme Court.
The Superior Court, in a 13-page opinion, rejected the defense's argument that Selenski's trial for the deaths of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett constituted double jeopardy -- a constitutional protection that precludes a person from being tried twice for the same crime.
Investigators allege Selenski tortured and killed Kerkowski and Fassett at Kerkowski's home on May 3, 2002 while trying to force Kerkowski to reveal where he had hidden drugs and money. Selenski and an accomplice, Paul Weakley, then buried their bodies at Selenski's home on Mount Olivet Road in Kingston Township, it is alleged.
Selenski had been charged previously with the May 2003 deaths of Frank James and Adeiye Keiler. Prosecutors allege Selenski lured the men, who were alleged drug dealers, to his home, where he shot and killed them, then burned their bodies.
A Luzerne County jury acquitted Selenski of the James and Keiler slayings in March 2006, convicting him only of abuse of corpse.
Selenski's attorneys, Shelley Centini and Edward Rymsza, argued the charges in the Kerkowski/Fassett case should have been tried at the same time as the James/Keiler case because they arose out of the same criminal episode.
The defense said all of the victims were found at the same location, both homicides were connected to drugs and money and both crimes involved the same investigators and primary witnesses.
A three-member panel of the Superior Court found there were sufficient differences in the cases to support separate trials.
"The instant case involves homicides that occurred more than a year apart. Moreover, the fact that the homicides occurred at locations approximately 13 miles apart establishes there was no particular pattern to these crimes, even if both involved money and drugs," the court said.
Lisa Sands, sister of Tammy Fassett, applauded the court's ruling, but acknowledged the case could still be delayed should Selenski ask the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal.
"It was such good news," Sands said. "We still have one more hurdle."