YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Friends and family of three victims of a deadly fire two years ago gathered for a vigil to remember the innocent lives lost.
Thursday marks two years since officials said someone set fire to Bill and Judy Schmidt’s Youngstown home, killing the couple and their 10-year-old granddaughter, Corinne Gump.
It was just before 4 a.m. on March 30, 2015 when an explosion and fire lit up 3631 Powers Way. Within a few hours, officials learned the three had died in the fire.
A family torn and a community still shaken two years after the unthinkable tragedy. Still, with dimly-lit candles as storm clouds passed over, they came together to share memories of their loved ones.
Those who came to Thursday night’s vigil said they will continue this tradition if only to make sure Corinne’s voice is never silenced.
“Corinne’s voice is always going to be heard. We definitely want justice for her. She was ten years old and taken away too soon,” Crystal Broll said.
April Donnadio said it’s important to keep their memory alive.
“This is a memorial for victims and it’s going to keep going as long as we live. Every year we will be back into this spot to remember them.”
The house that once stood on Powers Way is no more — it was demolished in November of 2015. But a tree still stands in the front yard, marking a memorial.
Friends and family are hoping to plant a memorial garden in the vacant lot where the home used to be.
“To see the vacant lot, it’s hard. So if there’s vibrance and life, it’ll bring some kind of peace that is so needed into what really happened here,” Donnadio said.
Through tears, several spoke about the three people they called angels — lives gone too soon.
But now the family wants justice.
“They can’t get that closure without that, without someone being held accountable for what happened here,” Donnadio said.
While they continued to grieve in the two years that have passed, this group has never forgotten the first responders who risked their lives trying to save Corinne and her grandparents.
“They wake up on this day and still remember the horrific scene they walked into. So for them to be scarred for life, also is hard to deal with,” Donnadio said.
The trial for Robert Seman — the man charged in these arson murders — is set to begin in Portage County next month.
Prosecutors say he started the fire in an attempt to keep Corinne from testifying in a rape trial against him later that day.