Investigation Discovery’s ‘Pandora’s Box: Unleashing Evil: A Handsome Devil’ chronicles how police were led to a brutal killer and his accomplice while an officer was looking into a simple home invasion case in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in March 2003. Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett were found brutally murdered in June 2003, about a year after they were reported missing. If you’re interested in finding out more about the case, including the killers’ identities and current whereabouts, we’ve your back. Let’s dive in then, shall we?
How Did Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett Die?
Michael J. Kerkowski was born to Gerry and Michael S. Kerkowski in Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He had worked at a local drug store since he was 16 and opened his own Tunkhannock pharmacy, the Medicine Shoppe, in 1999 after graduating from college. On April 20, 2001, Pennsylvania State Police raided his store over allegations of an illegal drug operation. He was convicted of three counts of distribution of a controlled substance by a practitioner in February 2002.
While he awaited sentencing, Michael’s marriage fell apart, but he got into a relationship with Tammy Fassett, a 37-year-old waitress at a local bagel store. According to the show, they lived with the children in a Hunlock Township home and seemed “relatively happy” together. However, his parents began to feel concerned when the couple did not show up for a predetermined family dinner on May 3, 2002. They went to their son’s home to find the couple missing and had not even picked up their children from the daycare.
Concerned about their safety, the Kerkowskis filed a missing person complaint with the police the same day. However, the officers believed Michael, 37, and his girlfriend had fled the state to escape his sentencing, though his leaving behind his cash-stuffed wallet pointed otherwise. Gerry said, “We were shocked that people would think that. He would never, ever leave his children.” She was proven right when the Pennsylvania police found the bodies of the couple buried in a Wilkes-Barre property on June 5, 2003. They had been dead for more than a year, and their official cause of death was determined as asphyxiation.
Who Killed Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett?
It all started with Charlie Dugan, a local bar owner in Wilkes-Barre, calling his friend Gary Capitano, a Luzerne County District Attorney’s lieutenant detective, on March 27, 2003. Charlie told Gary about how his niece’s house had been burglarized two days ago, on March 25. Even though Gary worked in the homicide unit, he paid a courteous visit to Charlie’s niece, Ellen Smaka. She told the officer how she had returned from her shift at Dugan’s bar at around 3 am to find two invaders in her home. They stole bottles of alcohol from her home, including an expensive bottle of champagne.
However, Gary was surprised to learn how she had been repeatedly robbed over the last few months, including her purse being stolen from her car in December 2001 and her house being broken into in early 2002. Various instances, including the robbers returning her wallet to her workplace, indicated the perpetrators were someone who knew her. When the investigators asked if Ellen suspected anyone, she said the name Hugo M. Selenski, informing the officers she had grown up with him and her erstwhile best friend, Tina Strom, used to date him. Hugo had prior charges of robbery and had been convicted before.
When the investigators asked if she knew the second burglar, Ellen said it might be Paul Raymond Weakley, who had served time in prison with Hugo. Paul and Hugo worked together, and the former lived with Hugo and his girlfriend. Gary looked into Hugo and Paul to find the former had no recent charges. But Paul was in prison on charges of robbing a Pennsylvania water company. Gary met him in May 2003 and learned Paul could not have been involved in the murder since he wore an ankle bracelet and was required to be home all night. However, Paul was ready to trade information in exchange for a reduced sentence.
On June 3, 2003, Paul told Gary that Hugo and Patrick Russin were involved in Ellen’s home invasion and burglary. He even handed Gary Ellen’s diploma certificate to prove his story. Feeling he had solved the case, Gary was about to leave when Paul told him Hugo might have also been involved in Michael and Tammy’s disappearance. They had been missing for more than a year, and law enforcement officials thought the couple had fled with their $800,000 of drug money.
The investigators pored over reports to find the missing pharmacist’s father had reported about Hugo extorting money from him after his son’s disappearance. The parents had willingly handed over the money for the first time since they knew their son trusted Hugo. But they got suspicious when Hugo repeatedly showed up and asked for cash. When they refused to give him any, Hugo took a gun and robbed them at gunpoint. However, police seemed reluctant to believe Kerkowski Sr., and Hugo was never questioned on those charges.
On June 5, 2003, the detectives executed a search warrant for Hugo’s Kingston Township property and found Michael and Tammy’s bodies in his backyard. The investigators also found the charred bones of at least three more people, whose identities are unknown. According to reports, Hugo had a prior criminal record of serving seven years in federal prison for a 1994 bank robbery. He had been involved with Michael in distributing hundreds of thousands of doses of the painkillers OxyContin, Vicodin, and Lorce.
Where Are Paul Weakley and Hugo Selenski Now?
Paul initially claimed he was at work on the day of the murder. But when proved otherwise, he confessed he and Hugo had gone to Michael’s home on May 3, 2002, to rob the latter. They tied and tortured the couple until Michael revealed where he stashed his drug money before Hugo killed them both. They put the bodies in Michael’s car, drove them to Hugo’s place, and buried them in his backyard. According to the show, Hugo killed them to get money to purchase a house with his girlfriend, Tina.
Paul had all his charges dropped by testifying against Hugo in his 2015 trial. However, he continues to serve life in prison without the chance of parole on unrelated charges. Hugo was also sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 56 to 120 years in state prison. While awaiting trial, he fled from prison in October 2003 and was captured three days later. Hugo’s girlfriend, Tina, also pleaded guilty to money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. According to court records, Hugo, 49, is serving his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette, while Paul, 53, is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute.
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