Police interviewing mom of rape victim who died in Youngstown fire

Powers Way fire in Youngstown killed 3

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The U.S. Marshal’s Service located the mother of a girl who died in a house fire in Youngstown early Monday morning and brought her to the Youngstown Police Department for an interview Monday afternoon.

Monday morning, Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin asked for the trial of Robert Seman, Jr., 46, to be delayed. Prosecutors believe that Seman raped that same girl, who was one of three people who died in the fire. Seman’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday at 8:30 a.m.

Prosecutors said they had been looking for the girl’s mom for some time in advance of Seman’s trial but had been unable to locate her. Authorities have not charged the mother in connection with either the girl’s rape or Monday’s fire and have not said that she is a suspect in either incident. When questioned by a WYTV reporter Monday afternoon on her way in to the police department, the woman did not respond.

Authorities said that they found the girl’s mom at a house in Canfield that is listed in court records as Seman’s house arrest address. Those same authorities told WYTV that they checked at that house earlier Monday and did not find the woman.

McLaughlin also said that the Youngstown Police Department believes Seman tried to bribe a potential witness in the case. McLaughlin called Seman a “danger to the public.” Judge Maureen Sweeney revoked Seman’s bond and granted the request for the delay.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene has told WYTV that Seman will be placed in a protective custody area.

Goshen Police arrested Seman on March 15, 2014, after court authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. A Mahoning County grand jury later indicted Seman.

The victim’s mother contacted police March 10, 2014 to report that her daughter told her Seman had been engaging in sexual conduct with her for several years.

The girl was a fourth-grade student at South Range Elementary and had been a student there since kindergarten, according to school Principal Steve Matos.

South Range Schools administrators are providing grief counselors for students Monday and will make those counselors available at the district’s K-12 campus Monday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., according to a press release sent by the school district.

The counselors will also be available starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, according to the release.

Firefighters arrived at a house at 3631 Powers Way on Youngstown’s south side around 3 a.m. Monday after neighbors heard an explosion and called 911.

The windows of the house were shattered, but firefighters were not sure if an explosion occurred.

Firefighters at the scene said they believe the fire started in the basement but were not sure of the cause of the fire.

Firefighters searched the house and have confirmed that three people died in the fire. Prosecutors confirmed in court that the three people were the 10-year-old girl believed to be the rape victim and her grandparents, who were hearing impaired.

Dr. Joseph Ohr, forensic pathologist for the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office, said he positively identified the male victim as William E. Schmidt, 63, through tattoos and surgical implants. He said he believes the female victim is Judy Schmidt, 61. He said a positive identification has not yet been made, but it likely is her. Family members also identified her.

The 10-year-old girl was identified through forensic dentistry, Ohr said. WYTV is not naming her because she was an alleged sexual assault victim.

Neighbors and relatives confirmed to WYTV that the grandparents were deaf. WYTV is working to find out what type of smoke detectors were in the house.

Easter Seals Youngstown Hearing and Speech Center Community Center Director Steve Leland told WYTV that the local deaf community has suffered a great loss with the death of the grandparents.

According to Leland, smoke detectors for the hearing impaired are not the same for the general population.

Smoke detectors can send vibrations, sound and light to alert the hearing-impaired of a fire.

Leland also said that some homes have two smoke detectors: A typical one with sound and a second one that “hears” that sound, triggering strobe lights.

Easter Seals Youngstown Hearing and Speech recommends the following website for those looking to purchase these smoke detectors, Leland said.

To hear the 911 calls, click the links below:

This is a developing story. Check back here and watch WYTV 33 News at 5:30 and 6 for updates. 

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