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Former girlfriend of man convicted of double murder sentenced to 1 year in federal prison

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SCRANTON, Pennsylvania — A woman whose former boyfriend was convicted of killing two people whose bodies were found buried in northeast Pennsylvania has been sentenced to a year in federal prison.

Christina Strom, 42, collapsed into a chair crying after she was sentenced Friday in federal court on money laundering and obstruction counts to which she had pleaded guilty almost a decade ago.

Defense attorney Joseph O'Brien sought probation, arguing that his client had been a critical witness against Hugo Selenski, 42. Selenski was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the double murder in Luzerne County earlier this year.

Prosecutors accused Strom of helping Selenski launder more than $70,000 he obtained through drug trafficking, robbery and the slayings.

Strom herself made an impassioned plea for mercy, tearfully apologizing for her actions and saying she wished she "could go back and change it." She also said she had an 8-year-old daughter who needs her.

"I just want to make a life for her," Strom said.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Vanaskie acknowledged her cooperation with authorities but cited the severity of her crimes in imposing a term of one year and one day.

"The fact it has been so long has weighed heavily on me," Vanaskie said of the delay in sentencing. "I loathe to disrupt the family circumstances, but I can't get beyond seriousness of the offense."

Sentencing guidelines called for a term of 70 to 87 months. The judge said Strom deserved a break because of her cooperation and her good conduct since her arrest.

Prosecutors said Selenski and a co-conspirator beat pharmacist Michael Kerkowski in May 2002 to compel him to reveal the location of tens of thousands of dollars he kept in his house, and then used flex ties to strangle him and his girlfriend, Tammy Fassett. Authorities found their decomposing bodies about a year later on property where Selenski lived, along with at least three other sets of human remains. In 2006, a jury considering the deaths of two among the three sets of remains found convicted Selenski of abusing the men's corpses. The fifth body was never publicly identified.

U.S. Assistant Attorney William Houser, who did not recommend a sentence for Strom, said that even after the bodies were unearthed, Strom continued to support Selenski by lying about where she obtained large amounts of cash during her 2004 grand jury testimony.

And when Selenski staged a prison escape months after his arrest using a rope fashioned from bed sheets, Houser said, Strom concealed him inside her home, where he surrendered three days later.

O'Brien said his client had always been a law-abiding citizen except for the 18 months she was in a relationship with Selenski, whom he described as a "skillful manipulator."

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