From beginning to end: Youngstown’s triple murder-arson case

The man accused of raping 10-year-old Corinne Gump was set to go on trial for the murder of the little girl and her grandparents

Photo from February 2017


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Robert Seman’s triple murder case ended Monday morning when he fell to his death after leaping off a fourth-floor balcony in the Mahoning County Courthouse, but it started in the early morning hours of March 30, 2015.

At 3:00 a.m., a fire was lit at a house on Powers Way in Youngstown. Neighbors immediately recognized it was serious.

“The house was totally engulfed. By the time all of us got out, we couldn’t go in there,” said David Rowbotham, a neighbor who called 911.

It killed 10-year-old Corinne Gump and her grandparents, Bill and Judy Schmidt, who were trapped inside.

While the fire was burning out of control, it didn’t take police long to name Robert Seman as the suspect — the man also accused of raping the little girl, who was set to testify against him in court that day.

“I mean, on literally the eve of trial, hours before this trial was supposed to begin, this victim dies in a fire,” Mahoning County Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said afterward.

In court for the rape trial that morning, Seman tried covering burns on his body with makeup.

That’s when prosecutors first accused him of also trying to bribe a potential witness — his ex-wife.

Police searched Seman’s house in Green Township and the prosecutor confirmed they found evidence there, including two five-gallon gas cans.

That started a battle between lawyers from both sides over searching through the rubble on Powers Way for evidence before the house would be torn down.

“We all live in close proximity of this and having to pass it every day, it got to the point we were making detours to get around the house,” said Christine Seman, Corinne Gump’s aunt.

The house was demolished eight months after the fire.

Monthly meetings in court continued to get the case ready for trial.

Then in September of 2016, the defense got a mistrial because potential jurors had been talking about the case. That led to another attempt to try the case in Mahoning County.

However, in February, the judge ruled there was no chance of getting an impartial jury in Mahoning County, so the case was moved to Portage County.

“We’re gonna have to worry about where the defendant would be housed. If he’s gonna be housed in that county, if we’re gonna have to transport him every day, the security risks of either of those,” Cantalamessa said.

But the case never made it to Portage County.

The triple murder case ended with Seman’s apparent suicide — 742 days after the deadly fire that started it all.


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