YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Nothing is left of the house on Powers Way which prosecutors believe was the scene of a murder so heinous that the house where the alleged crime took place was ordered torn down.
No one has been convicted of anything, but prosecutors say the evidence strongly points toward a rape, murder and cover up.
One year later, the community gathered again at the site of the fire for a candlelit vigil in remembrance of the three lives taken. They came with pink and white balloons in hand, filling up the area in front of 3631 Powers Way around 6:15 p.m.
It was 3:41 a.m. March 30, 2015 when an explosion and fire lit up 3631 Powers Way. The fire broke out in the basement and quickly traveled through the house, with flames and smoke pouring from the windows.
Within a few hours, it was known that three people in the house, 10-year-old Corinne Gump and her grandparents Bill and Judy Schmidt, had died in the fire.
At 9 a.m. on that same Monday, Robert Seman’s trial was scheduled to begin charging him with the rape of Corrine. A crime police say took place when the girl was just 4 and 6 years old.
In the days following the fire, the Powers Way house was searched and arson eventually ruled.
A family torn and a neighborhood shaken, the best anyone can do in the wake of such a tragedy is to gather and remember, and that’s what they did. Vigils were held and flowers and teddy bears were laid at the site of the fire, and then Corinne and her grandparents were laid to rest.
On April 21, Robert Seman was back in court with visible burns on his face, marks which sheriff’s deputies said were covered by makeup. On June 11, 72 days after the fire, Robert Seman was charged with murder.
“Everybody just said, ‘OK, we are going to get this job done, and we are going to make sure it gets done properly,’” said Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.
As Seman’s case proceeds through the legal system, there have been 13 hearings so far. The house on Powers way remained standing for much of it – filled with rats, stench and haunting memories. Finally on November 23, Judge Maureen Sweeney ordered the structure torn down.
On Wednesday, Ethan Gump stood among people paying their respects to the family, one year after the fire that claimed his daughter Corinne’s life. Lynn Schmidt, Corrine’s mother and Bill and Judy’s daughter, addressed the crowd of about 125 people.
“We all know why we’re here — over something brutal and heinous, but the other reason we’re here is to celebrate and honor the memory of Billy and Judy Schmidt and Corinne Gump,” Lynn Schmidt said.
Corinne’s uncle, Derrick Henderson, also spoke.
“It don’t make no sense anymore for all the senseless violence that’s going on out here, and all these kids are dying out here. These babies are dying. These child molesters are out here,” he said.
There was a moment of silent prayer, after which everyone raised their candles.
Sky lanterns were lit and launched, and a few people sang a verse of “Amazing Grace.”
Lisa Cappitti, Corrine’s stepmother, organized the vigil. She was pleased with the turnout as the family awaits the next step.
“We’re just ready for the trial. We’re ready for this to be over and some justice done,” she said.
Seman’s trial is expected to begin in September.
In a previous version of the video attached to this story, a WKBN 27 reporter misspoke regarding the pleas entered to 10 counts of murder. Robert Seman, Jr. has pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection to this case. He is currently in jail, awaiting trial. WKBN 27 apologizes for any confusion caused by this lack of clarity.