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Selenski appeal will go forward

February 16. 2013 2:45PM

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WILKES-BARRE – A Luzerne County judge on Thursday said attorneys representing homicide suspect Hugo Selenski may go forward with their appeal of his ruling regarding a request to dismiss the charges.

Selenski's scheduled Sept. 10 trial could be delayed for an unknown period of time.

Selenski, 38, could face the death penalty if convicted in the deaths of Tammy Fassett and Michael Kerkowski, both of whom were 37 when they died. Investigators allege Selenski killed Fassett and Kerkowski on May 3, 2002.

Judge Fred Pierantoni said in a two-page order that while he is "confident of the correctness of our legal determination" he cannot decide the appeal is frivolous, thus clearing the way for defense attorneys to go forward with their appeal.

Lisa Sands, Fassett's sister, said Thursday she is highly upset by the latest appeal. She believed the trial was going to be held and had confidence in the judge that no further delays were going to be issued.

Defense attorneys on Aug. 7 filed an appeal to the state Superior Court, stating Pierantoni erred when he denied a request to dismiss the charges against Selenski because Selenski was previously prosecuted on a different offense.

Prosecutors on Wednesday attempted to have the appeal stopped, stating it was frivolous and a tactic to delay Selenski's trial. Prosecutors also said defense attorneys needed to ask permission of Pierantoni to appeal his decision.

"The commonwealth's … position that the murders of (Kerkowski and Fassett) in this case and the murders of (Frank James and Adeiye Keiler in May 2003) for which (Selenski) was previously prosecuted occurred a year apart, under different circumstances, by different means, with different co-conspirators, in different locations," prosecutors said.

A Luzerne County jury acquitted Selenski of the James and Keiler slayings in March 2006. But Selenski was convicted of burning their bodies at the Mount Olivet Road, Kingston Township, home where he lived at the time.

Pierantoni said Thursday defense attorneys do not need his permission to appeal. "While we are of the firm opinion that our reasoning and judgment regarding this issue is sound, we cannot conclude (Selenski's appeal) to our decision is frivolous," Pierantoni wrote.

Staff writer Ed Lewis contributed to this report.

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