Hours Before Girl Was to Testify, She Dies in Fire

Alleged rapist's trial delayed by Youngstown blaze
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2015 12:48 AM CDT
Hours Before Girl Was to Testify, She Dies in Fire
Youngstown Fire Department Capt. Kurt Wright and a state fire marshal look into the back of the house after the blaze in Youngstown, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Robert K. Yosay)

A 10-year-old Ohio girl and her grandparents died in a house fire just hours before she was supposed to testify against her alleged rapist, and prosecutors are having a hard time believing it could just be a tragic coincidence. Robert Seman Jr., 46, was to go on trial Monday on charges of rape and gross sexual imposition, but the trial was delayed after the 3:30am blaze killed the girl and her maternal grandparents at their Youngstown home, WKYC reports. Seman, who's accused of abusing the girl from when she was 4 years old until she was 8, according to WFMJ, had been under electronically monitored house arrest since last April but was booked into jail on Monday for what authorities say was an attempt to bribe a witness.

WKBN reports a disturbing development: The girl's mother, who had been sought by prosecutors ahead of the trial, was interviewed by police Monday after she was found at the address that court records list as Seman's home. WKBN also reports that the girl's grandparents were deaf and it's not clear what kind of smoke detector their home had. Mahoning County prosecutor Paul Gains tells NBC News that the Youngstown Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the blaze. "We have to wait," he says. "If it's natural causes, it's a hell of a coincidence." (In December, a Navy veteran in Louisiana died saving his son from a house fire.)

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