An Ohio man who was to face trial this week for setting a fire that killed a girl he was accused of raping and her grandparents apparently committed suicide Monday when he jumped from a fourth-floor courthouse balcony.
Robert Seman Jr., 48, was returning to the Mahoning County Jail from the county courthouse in Youngstown when he suddenly ran to the balcony and hurled himself over the edge. He was coming from a status conference before his trial was set to begin Tuesday in Portage County, 35 miles away.
“According to a couple of the attorneys and basically everybody there, it seemed like he was in pretty good spirits,” Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene told the Youngstown Vindicator. “He was talking about the future of his trial, and he just decided to jump.”
“I heard somebody shout and I looked up on the opposite side. I saw a deputy at the railing, and I saw this white object falling to the ground,” Vindicator reporter Joe Gorman told WKBN. “I knew what it was, and I just screamed.”
WKBN reported that Seman had been allowed to change out of his usual orange jail jumpsuit and wear civilian clothing to court. His only restraint was a brace worn under his pant leg to keep him from running.
Greene said Seman’s lack of restraint was a standard procedure “due to the fact that the courts do not want individuals on trial to be seen with restraining devices on, or per se, in custody.”
Seman could have faced the death penalty if convicted in the deaths of 10-year-old Corrine Gump, 63-year-old William Schmidt and 61-year-old Judith Schmidt. The March 2015 fire at the family’s home occurred the day Seman’s trial in Corrine’s rape was scheduled to begin in Youngstown. Investigators concluded that the fire was fueled by gasoline. Burns were found on Seman’s body after his arrest, prosecutors said.
A Mahoning County judge declared a mistrial last September because a potential juror had prematurely concluded that Seman was guilty and discussed details about the case with fellow jurors.
Seman’s attorneys successfully argued that he could not get a fair trial in Youngstown because of pretrial publicity.
Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa told news outlets Monday that Seman “knew” the evidence was against him.
“Every witness we talked to in preparation for the case, they didn’t know why he wasn’t pleading guilty or asking for some sort of plea,” Cantalamessa said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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