I walked into a computer lab at the college a few minutes before my advertising class to find four young ladies huddled around an iMac giggling the way they might over photos of Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. This was more than 17 years ago.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Hu-go Se-len-ski,” the girl seated in front of the screen said in a sing-song voice while feigning a swoon. “He’s soooo hot,” she added.

“Hot?” I said. “He’s accused of murdering people and burying them in his backyard.”

“You know what my mother says?” the girl asked. “She says, ‘Hugo Selenski can bury me in his backyard anytime.’”

The giggles resumed.

And I was left scratching my head.

I’ve always maintained that guys have no idea what makes other guys attractive to women, and this confirmed it. Hugo’s looks did nothing for me.

It was fall of 2003 and we had just heard of the name Hugo Selenski and the heinous crimes of which he was accused and later convicted in a 2015 trial that did not begin until a full 12 years later. He had beaten a murder charge in Luzerne County Court along the way.

Puzzled by the experience in the computer lab, I began to take my own informal survey. I walked up to women of varying ages, some of whom I knew and most I did not, and asked them to finish this sentence: “Hugo Selenski, he’s … “

“Hot!” almost every single one responded.

Just like that. No hesitation. No questions asked.

A couple of nights later, my wife and I attended a banquet at The Woodlands. I cannot remember what it was for, but I do recall we were seated at a table full of strangers. There was a young, married couple with us, and I inquired if I could ask the woman a question.

“I already know what you are going to ask me,” she said.

Keep in mind, not once that evening had anyone mentioned Hugo Selenski.

“No you don’t,” I protested.

“I bet she does,” her husband chimed in. “She’s weird like that.”

“Okay,” I said to her. “What am I going to ask you?”

“You want to know if I think Hugo Selenski is hot,” she said.

My jaw dropped.

“Well, he is,” she continued.

“Hot?” another young woman at the table offered. “My mother and I broke the speed limit getting to the prison when we heard he was being transferred. We just wanted to get a look at him.”

And, when a few days later, Hugo broke out of Luzerne County Prison MacGyver-style, climbing down the side of the building using bed sheets he had tied together, and said he did it because he wanted to visit his girlfriend one more time, well, his hotness meter soared off the scale.

As the trial finally approached in 2015, I shared all of this with a person close to the investigation and he told me one of the fears of prosecutors in cases like this is that halfway through the trial a juror might confess they’d fallen in love with the defendant and there would be a mistrial. My little survey of years before told me he wasn’t kidding.

Which caused me to revamp my thinking.

I still believe most guys do not know if other guys are “hot,” but some guys, certainly Hugo Selenski, know damn well if they, themselves, are. And you can bet they know how to use it to their advantage.

So, here we are in 2021 and I’ve been reading that Hugo, now 47, and serving a life sentence in prison, is appealing his conviction. According to what I’ve read, he claims his defense attorneys had been ineffective.

There’s a lot of Greater Pittston flavor in the current hearing, which is a continuation of a procedure that began last October. First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce, positioned to become acting district attorney as of the time of this writing, and Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino are representing the district attorney’s office before Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni.

While it may take a while, whether Hugo Selenski deserves a new trial will be determined by the courts.

But seeing his photo in the papers again after all these years, I cannot help but wonder if women still think he is hot.

Or if he still does.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.

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