Ohio judge keeps death option in arson fire that killed 3

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio judge denied a request to remove the death penalty option for a man accused of killing a 10-year-old girl and her grandparents in a March 2015 arson fire.

Attorneys for 47-year-old Robert Seman Jr., of Green Township, sought to have the death penalty declared unconstitutional because of how the appeals process for death penalty cases in Ohio works. A Mahoning County judge on Friday ruled that the attorneys failed to show how the process constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Authorities have said the fire was set just hours before the start of jury selection for Seman’s trial on four counts each of rape and gross sexual imposition for allegedly sexually assaulting the girl. Seman’s bond was revoked during the arson investigation when his ex-wife told police that he’d offered to pay her money to say the girl had lied about being sexually assaulted.

Prosecutors have said gasoline was used to start the fire and that burns were discovered on Seman’s body after he was jailed.

A coroner ruled that Corinne Gump and her grandparents, William Schmidt, 63, and Judith Schmidt, 61, died of smoke inhalation.

Seman faces a scheduled trial in September on 10 counts of aggravated murder along with burglary and arson charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted.