YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (KDKA/AP) – A northeast Ohio prosecutor says a 10-year-old girl died in a house fire early Monday morning, hours before a man suspected of raping her was scheduled to go on trial.
A total of three people were reported dead by the Youngstown Fire Department after the blaze on the city’s south side.
Neighbors in the 3600-block of Powers Way say they heard a loud explosion around 3:30 a.m.; moments later, they saw flames rip through the two-story home.
“I looked out the window and the fire broke out from the bottom of the basement, just whoosh. And it was totally on fire.”
Dozens of firefighters were needed to control the flames.
When it was out, firefighters found the bodies of two adults and their 10-year-old granddaughter. The adults are identified as Billy and Judy Schmidt, both in their 60s.
“Everybody who knew Billy loved him. He had friends all over the United States, he could probably go anywhere in the country and probably run into somebody that he knew,” said Connie Glozier, the victim’s sister.
The Schmidts, who were both deaf, were raising their granddaughter. Neighbor Pamela Jones says the girl played with her grandchildren.
“I just can’t believe that something like this would happen,” said Jones. “I’ve been crying all day.”
Adding to the tragedy of this fire, the 10-year-old girl was the victim of an alleged sexual assault. The suspect, identified as 45-year-old Robert Seman, appeared in court this morning.
“On literally the eve of trial, hours before this trial was supposed to begin, this victim dies in a fire under suspicious circumstances, at the very least,” said Mahoning County Assistant District Attorney Stephanie McLaughlin. “Only 10 years old, somebody who did not deserve these things that happened to her.”
Seman has not been charged in connection with the fire, but his bond was revoked and he was taken to jail. If convicted on the rape charges, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
McLaughlin says they’re investigating allegations that Seman tried to bribe a witness.
“This defendant had contacted another individual, asking that individual to come into court and testify that the victim in this case said she was lying, that she admitted that she had made it all up, and the witness said, you know, that didn’t happen,” McLaughlin said.
The fire’s cause is under investigation.
Meanwhile, the trial has been delayed.
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