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Ohio Girl, 10, Dies in House Fire Hours Before Rape Suspect's Trial Begins

Two of the people who died in the fire were identified as William E. Schmidt, 63, and his granddaughter, the 10-year-old suspected rape victim.
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/ Source: NBC News

A 10-year-old Ohio girl died in a house fire early Monday just hours before a trial she was set to testify in against her accused rapist was supposed to begin, officials said.

Robert Seman Jr., 46, was scheduled to be tried in Mahoning County on four counts of gross sexual imposition Monday, but the start of the trial was delayed when the Youngstown home of the 10-year-old he is accused of raping caught fire around 3:45 a.m. ET, according to NBC affiliate WKYC. The girl died along with two others.

Seman had been out on bond pending the rape trial, but Mahoning County Commons Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney revoked his bond Monday. She made the decision based on related bribery allegations, and not the fire, Mahoning County prosecutor Paul Gains told NBC News. Seman’s lawyer, Thomas Zena, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Seman had been electronically monitored on house arrest since last April when he was indicted, Gains said. He was booked Monday in the Mahoning County Jail, according to sheriff's office documents.

One of the other two who died in the fire was identified as the 10-year-old girl's grandfather, William E. Schmidt, 63, the Mahoning County Coroner's Office told WKYC. The third person is unidentified, but believed to be the girl's grandmother.

Gains said the cause of the fire had not been determined and the Youngstown Fire Department was investigating. "We have to wait," Gains said. "If it’s natural causes, it’s a hell of a coincidence," he added.

— Elisha Fieldstadt