A man has jumped to his death from an Ohio courthouse balcony just before standing trial for triple murder and the rape of a 10-year-old girl.
Robert Seman Jnr faced the death penalty if he was found guilty of the rape and murder of 10-year-old Corinne Gump and the murder of her grandparents Judy and William Schmidt, whose home he allegedly set on fire in March 2015.
However, the 48-year-old plunged to his death after flinging himself from the fourth floor courthouse balcony – just as he was about to enter the courtroom.
CCTV footage of the macabre incident released by Mahoning County Sheriff’s office shows Seman being escorted by police officers along a county courthouse corridor in Youngstown, Ohio.
Seman, dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants, was not wearing handcuffs at the time of the incident and managed to hurl himself over the balcony as cops belatedly scrambled to stop him.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene told WKBN that the lack of handcuffs was standard procedure, “Due to the fact that the courts do not want individuals on trial to be seen with restraining devices on, or per se, in custody.”
Seman’s attorney said the apparent suicide was completely unexpected as his client maintained his innocence.
However the prosecution say his actions were an indication of guilt. “He knew the evidence against him,” Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said. “Every witness we talked to in preparation for the case, they didn’t know why he wasn’t pleading guilty or asking for some sort of plea, so this is very telling.”
Prosecutors allege that Seman abused Corinne Gump from the age of four to nine years old. Investigators believe he set fire to the house hours before the child was due to testify against him for the years of alleged sexual assault. He had only recently been released from prison under electronic monitoring and was awaiting trial on the rape charges.
Days after the deadly arson attack Seman was charged with attempting to bribe his ex-wife to lie for him at the rape trial, Cleveland.com report. The woman allegedly refused her ex-husband’s request.
The Sheriff’s office is conducting an internal investigation into the incident.