YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A triple murder suspect stunned an Ohio courthouse when he leapt to his death from a four-story balcony inside the building.
The grisly death of Robert Seman Jr. brought a stunning end to a case that had sent shockwaves through the region.
Seman, 48, was awaiting trial on charges that he set a fire that killed a 10-year-old girl he was accused of repeatedly raping, as well as her grandparents. He faced the death penalty if convicted.
Seman leapt more than 50 feet to his death as he was being led by deputies to a holding cell from a courtroom after a routine status hearing at the Mahoning County Courthouse in Youngstown. Surveillance video showed Seman walking normally and appearing to speak calmly with the deputies when he suddenly made a mad dash for the balcony railing and hurled himself over.
“According to a couple of the attorneys and basically everybody there, it seemed like he was in pretty good spirits,” Sheriff Jerry Greene told the Youngstown Vindicator. “He was talking about the future of his trial, and he just decided to jump.”
The impact of Seman’s body — which weighed over 260 pounds — shook the building, the newspaper reported. Police said it was not unusual that Seman was walking through the courthouse unrestrained as judges prefer defendants not to be seen with cuffs on as it gives the impression to jurors that they are already guilty.
Seman was charged with killing 10-year-old Corrine Gump, 63-year-old William Schmidt and 61-year-old Judith Schmidt, in March 2015 in a fire at the family’s home that broke out the day Seman was set to be tried trial for raping the young girl. Gump, who was the daughter of a long-time girlfriend of Seman, was set to testify against him.
Investigators determined that the fire had been fueled by gasoline and Seman had severe burns on his body that were found after his arrest, prosecutors said.
His murder trial was set to begin Tuesday 35 miles away in Portage County, after his attorneys had successfully argued he could not get a fair trial in Youngstown because of pretrial publicity. A mistrial had been declared last September after a potential juror had prematurely concluded that Seman was guilty and discussed details about the case with fellow jurors.
Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said Monday that people were surprised that Seman was going through with a trial as the evidence was very strong 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.