Nancy Seaman was a Farmington Hills,
Michigan teacher at Longacre Elementary School who was convicted of
first-degree murder in a highly publicized murder trial in 2005 for
killing her husband with a hatchet. She argued that she killed her
husband in self-defense although prosecutors alleged that the murder
Five years after her conviction, Nancy Seaman's
conviction was overturned by United States federal judge Bernard A.
Friedman on November 4, 2010 on the basis that her defense attorney
were not fully able to develop their theory of battered woman
However, on January 19, 2011, another federal judge
ordered a stay of proceedings in her appeal. She is currently serving
her life sentence at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility.
Her case has been cited as an example of battered women receiving
ineffective legal counsel and some groups have advocated clemency.
Early life and marriage
Nancy Ann Donofrio was born on May 13, 1952. She
was the valedictorian of her high school class. She met her husband
Bob Seaman in 1972 and they married a year later. Bob worked at Ford
Motor Company while Nancy stayed home. In 1979, Nancy and Bob welcomed
their first son Jeff, followed by another son Greg in 1981. In 1995,
she began working as an elementary schoolteacher.
Shortly into the couple's marriage, Nancy cites her
first incident of spousal abuse, where her drunken husband attempted
to push her out of a moving car. She later claimed that other
incidents of physical abuse occurred in her marriage sporadically, but
intensified after her husband lost his job at Ford Motor Company.
She stated that "Bob would shove. That's what he
liked to do, shove and push against walls. Most of my bruisings were
either that he would grab me by an article of clothing or an arm. He
would squeeze my arm and push me against the wall. Sometimes I'd get
knocked down." Nancy's younger son Greg stated that he saw his father
both physically and mentally abused his mother, however her older son
Jeff denies that any abuse ever occurred.
Murder and investigation
By 2004, Nancy and Bob Seaman were planning to
divorce. The couple were living on different floors of their home. In
February, Nancy was planning to move out of the couple's home and into
a condo, which she told her husband was for their youngest son Greg.
Nancy claimed that on the morning of May 10, 2004,
after Bob had been away for the weekend, an argument ensued over Nancy
moving out; she claimed that her husband was holding a kitchen knife,
became enraged, and started chasing her into their garage.
According to physical evidence, Nancy grabbed an
axe in the garage and struck her husband with it at least 20 times.
Following the murder, Nancy went into school that day after she failed
to find a substitute teacher.
Nancy Seaman was arrested by police on the
Wednesday following the murder. A relative of Bob's informed police
that Bob was missing, and when police went to question Nancy, they
found Bob's body wrapped in a tarp with duct tape in the back of her
Ford Explorer. Police also found the knife that was used to stab Bob
to death inside the tarp.
Despite Nancy's claims of self-defense, police had
a different version of events. Instead of Bob attacking Nancy, police
alleged it was the other way around, claiming that Nancy ambushed her
husband in their kitchen with the axe, then dragged his body into the
garage where she stabbed him with a knife and beat him with a
sledgehammer. The police had evidence to support their claims, too.
Just a day before the killing, video surveillance captured Nancy
purchasing the hatchet at the Home Depot, which she said was used to
cut down a stump in their front yard.
The following day, Nancy returned to Home Depot,
where she purchased duct tape, the tarp, bleach, and other cleaning
products. A third trip to Home Depot revealed that Nancy shoplifted a
hatchet, and then attempted to return it with the receipt she received
after purchasing the first hatchet. On the Friday following the
murder, Nancy was formally charged with first-degree murder; she pled
not guilty to the charge.
Trial and Conviction
Six months after the murder on November 29, 2004,
Nancy Seaman's murder trial began. She had spent the last six months
in the Oakland County Jail. While Nancy claimed that she had killed
her husband in self-defense, prosecutor Lisa Ortleib-Gorcyca alleged
that Nancy killed her husband out of rage, stating how Nancy was angry
that although she planned to leave her husband, Bob was about to leave
Ortleib-Gorcyca also stated how Nancy believed that
her husband was having an affair with a woman named Julie Dumbleton,
although this wasn't the case. She alleged that after a marital fight,
Nancy went straight to Home Depot where she purchased the hatchet she
would use to kill her husband.
Despite the prosecutor's statements, Nancy
persisted in her arguments of self-defense. She testified in her own
defense on December 7, 2004, saying that she and Bob got into "the
grand finale of all fights" on May 10 because she planned to leave.
Nancy went on to describe the violent struggle that ended in Bob's
In the end however, Nancy was convicted of
first-degree, premeditated murder, which in Michigan carries an
automatic life sentence. Following this conviction, trial judge John
McDonald reduced this conviction to second-degree murder, citing a
lack of evidence to support a first-degree murder conviction. This
decision was later overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.
After Nancy Seaman's appeals in state court were
exhausted, she petitioned for a new trial in federal court. On
November 4, 2010, her conviction was overturned by United States
federal judge Bernard A. Friedman on on the basis that her defense
attorney were not fully able to develop their theory of battered woman
syndrome. A new trial was ordered, until January 19, 2011, when
another federal judge ordered a stay of proceedings in her appeal.
While in prison, Nancy Seaman continues to appeal her conviction.
Judge overturns 2005 conviction of Farmington
Hills teacher who killed husband with hatchet
Thursday, November 04, 2010
A judge has overturned the conviction of a teacher
who hacked her husband to death before going to school, saying she
wasn't allowed to fully develop a defense of battered-woman syndrome.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman last week
ordered authorities to put Nancy Seaman on trial again within four
months or release her from prison where she's serving a life sentence.
An appeal by the Michigan attorney's general, however, likely will
freeze the process.
There is no dispute that Seaman, now 58, killed
Robert Seaman in May 2004 by striking him with a hatchet 16 times and
stabbing him at least 21 times in their garage in Farmington Hills.
She said she was a victim of emotional and physical abuse and was
threatened again that day.
Seaman went to school after failing to find a
substitute teacher. She returned home, wrapped the body in a tarp and
used bleach and paint to get rid of blood stains in the garage. Police
responding to a missing person's report eventually found the body in
her car trunk.
Friedman turned aside much of Seaman's arguments in
her claim that her constitutional rights were violated at trial. But
he was persuaded that her attorney could have done more.
An expert in battered-woman syndrome, Lenore
Walker, testified for Seaman, but she wasn't allowed to interview her.
"Reasonable efforts to argue his client's case
required defense counsel to attempt to introduce as much favorable
testimony regarding battered-spouse syndrome as allowed. It was the
defense's only defense," Friedman said in his Oct. 29 decision.
Jurors, he said, could have had a different opinion
about Seaman's guilt if they had heard more.
"The prosecution did not present overwhelming
evidence ... of first-degree premeditated murder," Friedman said.
A jury in 2005 convicted Seaman of first-degree
murder, but the Oakland County trial judge reduced it to second-degree
murder. A state appeals court reinstated the jury's verdict.
Seaman appeal denied
September 16, 2007
Former Farmington Hills teacher Nancy Seaman has
hit the end of the State Appeals Court line, according to Mike
Martindale’s story in today’s Detroit News.
Seaman, you may recall, was convicted of killing
her husband, Robert, on or around Mother’s Day in 2004. Acting on a
phone call from relatives, police discovered the 57-year-old
businessman’s body wrapped in a tarp and duct tape, in the back of an
SUV parked in the garage at the couple’s Farmington Hills home. Oddly
enough, Nancy Seaman arrived at school on the morning after the murder
and taught a full day. During the trial, evidence showed she had
purchased the murder weapon in advance, then shoplifted an identical
item, which she later returned with the original receipt.
An Oakland County jury didn’t buy Seaman’s claim
that she was a victim of domestic abuse. She was convicted of
first-degree murder and is serving a mandatory life sentence. Trial
judge John MacDonald initially reduced her conviction to 2nd degree, a
decision overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Teacher gets life in prison for killing
January 25, 2005
PONTIAC (AP) — An elementary school teacher who
hacked her husband to death with a hatchet was sentenced Monday to
life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Before she was sentenced, Nancy Seaman read a
statement in which she called the jury’s guilty verdict “a miscarriage
of justice” and a “tragic mistake.” She said she would appeal.
“I did not intend or plan to kill my husband,”
Prosecutors said Seaman argued with her husband,
Robert, last Mother’s Day, went to Home Depot to buy a hatchet,
returned to their Farmington Hills home and killed him with it. Police
found Robert Seaman’s body in his wife’s sport utility vehicle a few
Nancy Seaman claimed that she bought the hatchet
for yard work and that the couple got into an argument the next
morning in which her husband of 31 years menaced her with a steak
knife. She said she grabbed the nearest thing to defend herself.
“I fought like my life depended on it because it
did,” Seaman said Monday. “If I didn’t kill him, he would have killed
me. That’s how it usually ends for abused women.”
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge John McDonald
called the case “the most troubling, tragic and sad” he had seen in
his 12 years on the bench.
He refuted Seaman’s accusations that the jury was
inattentive and had concluded she was guilty before the trial even
“I don’t doubt for a minute that you were
physically and emotionally abused. I don’t think the jury doubted it,”
But he said the jurors did not believe the abuse
was so severe that it excused killing her husband.He encouraged her to
work for the cause of encouraging battered woman to leave their
abusers “before it’s too late.”
“I feel pity for you, and I feel pity for your
family,” the judge said.
Prosecutors said Seaman took elaborate steps to
cover up her crime, wrapping the body in a tarp and painting the walls
and bleaching the floor of the garage where the killing took place.
She also shoplifted another hatchet and returned it to Home Depot with
her original receipt.
Jury doesn't buy Seaman's story
Ex-teacher's words convicted her of first-degree murder of
husband, they say.
PONTIAC -- Too many inconsistencies. Too many
And finally Nancy Seaman's own testimony, a version
that an Oakland Circuit Court jury found had too many holes and was
just too unbelievable to be true.
Those were some of the responses of seven jurors,
explaining how they quickly reached a first-degree murder conviction
for Seaman, a Farmington Hills grade school teacher who used a hatchet
to kill her 57-year-old husband, Robert, following a Mother's Day
argument. She contended she had endured 31 years of abuse. Her
battered-spouse defense -- used only occasionally in courtrooms --
drew wide public attention.
The jury, which heard six days of testimony, took
less than six hours Tuesday to return the verdict against the petite
52-year-old Seaman, who will be sentenced Jan. 24 to mandatory life in
"To keep him wrapped up and bundled in a car ... it
went beyond an incident in a garage," said juror Tom Rachfal. "When
she laid down on the (courtroom) floor to demonstrate what happened,
it seemed it caught her off guard -- like she was doing it for the
Seaman smiled slightly at the jury as the verdict
was read. Neither of her two adult sons was present in the courtroom
and her attorney Lawrence Kaluzny said that was by design; they chose
not to be there.
"You can't predict how someone is going to
respond," said Kaluzny of Seaman's reaction. "We had discussed various
things that could happen, and this was one of them. She always knew
that. And being religious, she could accept this and realized no
matter what happened, her life was never going to be the same."
Seaman argued with her husband a final time May 10
over a condominium she had purchased.
She said he cut her wrist during the argument, then
chased and pushed her down on the garage floor and began kicking and
threatening her. That's when her hand found a hatchet she bought the
night before at a Home Depot store, she said.
An autopsy revealed Robert Seaman was struck at
least 15 times with the hatchet and stabbed 21 times with a knife. His
decomposing body was wrapped in a tarp and found inside his Ford
Explorer by police detectives May 12. When she was arrested, Nancy
Seaman, who had been telling friends and police for three days she had
no idea where her husband was, told police "it was an accident ... he
was beating me."
Kaluzny portrayed Seaman as a battered wife,
calling experts to testify to the syndrome of women who are afraid to
leave abusive husbands.
Several jurors noted how Seaman neither exhibited
the type of injuries characteristic of battered women nor showed a
lack of knowledge about support groups in the area.
Jurors also said Seaman did not fit the
psychological profile experts described of victims. In contrast,
Seaman had a college education, a good teaching job and a car. She had
"We believe she loved him but had planned on
leaving him, but it had to be on her terms," said juror Rachfal.
Several jurors said they knew Seaman had to take
the witness stand in order to put forth a version of self-defense, but
as one said, "Her testimony killed any chance she had."
Evidence suggested it was more likely the killing
occurred, assistant Oakland County prosecuting attorney Lisa Ortlieb
contended, on Sunday night and that Seaman cleaned up as much as she
could and put it out in the trash pickup Monday before she bought
bottles of bleach and a tarp to finish the job.
Many viewed Seaman's explanation of events as a
"detailed cover-up" and too unbelievable.
"I think she was acting ... her verbiage seemed
forced," said one juror, Sherine Coury.
Juror Patricia Bedard thought Seaman's testimony
Others felt the evidence was overwhelming and that
Seaman planned the killing from start to finish.
Juror Michael Jerzierkski could not believe
Seaman's version on how she killed her husband by swinging the hatchet
to get him off her, not knowing where she struck him.
"The blows were deliberate and aimed and with quite
a bit of force," Jerzierski said.
News of the verdict saddened, but did not surprise,
Sue Coats, executive director of Turning Point, a Macomb County
nonprofit group that works to end domestic abuse and sexual violence.
"It's very difficult for a jury or the community to
understand how somebody could kill somebody in a way that's so
brutal," she said. "Typically, a victim of domestic violence feels so
cornered, so trapped, so isolated, that when they strike back, the
situation is one of gross overkill."
Coats said some lessons could still be taken from
"What we can take from this is an understanding of
how isolated battered women are. Even battered women who are working
and living in Oakland County, where there are places she may have been
able to reach out," Coats said.
Beth Morrison, executive director of HAVEN, a
shelter for battered women in Pontiac, said, "Each day, there are lots
of domestic violence cases against women that may never make the
papers or make it onto TV.
"It's unfortunate that because the defendant in
this case was a women that the case received so much attention."
Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning
said the jury could have found Seaman guilty of involuntary
manslaughter, but the panel wasn't buying Seaman's self-defense plea.
"Given the circumstances of what she did after
killing her husband -- cleaning the scene and wrapping the body in a
tarp -- that's a sign that this was planned," Henning said, noting
most battered women who kill their husbands confess right away to
"She didn't, which makes it much harder to
establish the battering claim. I'm not saying she wasn't battered, but
she just reached a point where she planned this murder. Her conduct
after killing her husband doesn't look like someone reacting to a
sudden threat. It looks like she planned to cover it up."
After reviewing the evidence, the jury really only
had one choice, Detroit criminal attorney Richard Zuckerman said.
"They apparently thought the evidence of premeditation was so
overwhelming that first-degree murder was the only reasonable
verdict," Zuckerman said. "I'm not surprised at all. The evidence
looked more than sufficient for the verdict."
"Justice was served today," said Ortlieb. "But
clearly there are no winners here."
Jurors said even with the evidence, reaching a
verdict was not easy.
Accused of Murdering Husband, Teacher Cites
Years of Abuse
December 7, 2004
A former elementary school teacher on trial for
murder testified today that she tried to leave her husband after years
of abuse but hacked him to death with a hatchet during one last
violent encounter because "I had to stop him."
Nancy Seaman, 52, is charged with first-degree,
premeditated murder. Prosecutors say that on May 9, after a fight with
her husband, she went to a store, bought a hatchet, then went home and
savagely killed Robert Seaman, 57, by hitting him 15 times with the
hatchet and stabbing him 21 times with a knife.
Seaman, who taught fourth grade at Longacre
Elementary School, allegedly wrapped her husband's body in a tarp and
put it in her sport utility vehicle, where police found it May 12 at
the couple's home in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb.
Seaman maintains she acted in self-defense. She
testified today that the morning after Mother's Day, she and her
husband got into what she termed "the grand finale of all fights." She
said her husband became angry when he found out she had bought a condo
and was planning on leaving him..
"He's angry because he said he wasted his life with
me," Seaman explained. "He said, 'Why can't you just die? I don't love
you anymore.' He kicked me. He kicked me in the leg."
'There Was Blood Everywhere'
She then demonstrated to the court how she lay in
the garage trying to protect herself, with her hands covering her
face. She said her husband would not let go of her leg, so she picked
up the hatchet and hit him.
"I kept swinging it and I kept swinging it and I
kept swinging it ... I was terrified," she told the court. "I was
absolutely terrified. All I knew was that I had to stop him."
Seaman said it was then that she used the kitchen
knife to stab her husband, but she doesn't remember doing it.
With her husband's lifeless body in the garage,
Seaman left for work at Longacre Elementary, but came back during
"There was blood everywhere," Seaman told the
court, breaking down. "I kept saying, 'Bob, why did you do this to me?
Why did you do this to me? Why?' For 30 years, 30 years! And I was
going to be safe in just a couple weeks. A couple weeks! It was just a
couple weeks longer."
Seaman said she went out to buy cleaning supplies
and bleach so that she could clean up the scene before her son could
see what happened in the garage. She added that prior to her arrest
she was planning to turn herself in, but she wanted to do it on her
A Tumultuous Marriage
On Monday, Seaman told the jury that for the first
21 years of her marriage, her husband abused her sporadically. She
recalled one incident after another when she claims her husband got
out of hand, but she admitted she didn't confide in anyone about what
she said she was suffering.
"I was ashamed. I'd only been married a few
months," she said. "My God, that's supposed to be the best part of
your marriage, is the early part."
She told the jury her husband was a man with two
sides, a man she says she was getting ready to leave for good.
"He had like two personalities. He was very
charming. He was like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," she testified. "He
was very charming, and that's the Bob I fell in love with. But there
was this other side, and it was always true that he had a short fuse
and a bad temper."
Talking about the days following her arrest, she
said: "I wish he would have killed me."
Seaman described a pattern of physical abuse.
"Bob would shove. That's what he liked to do, shove
and push against walls," she said. "Most of my bruisings were either
that he would grab me by an article of clothing or an arm. He would
squeeze my arm and push me against the wall. Sometimes I'd get knocked
She said she did call the police once, years ago,
after her husband physically abused her in Missouri. She said he
didn't end up in jail and he threatened to kill her if she called the
Prosecutors contend that whatever her husband might
have done, Seaman planned the murder and did not truly act in
"Bob Seaman died a gruesome death," Assistant
Oakland County Prosecutor Lisa Ortlieb said during opening statements.
"The defendant had time to think about what she was doing. ... She
chose to be a killer."
Defense attorneys say years of abuse drove Seaman
to do it, but her two sons gave conflicting testimony about their
parents' relationship. Ortlieb, the lead prosecutor in the case, also
heads the head of the county's Domestic Violence Unit, and she
maintains Seaman was not a victim of domestic violence.
Sons Tell Different Stories
On Friday, Seaman was brought to tears as her
youngest son, Greg, testified that his father abused her, primarily
mentally, but also physically on occasion. Seaman wept as she listened
to her son tell the jury she lived in fear of her husband.
"He would constantly belittle my mother, her
profession, all the choices that she made," Greg Seaman said. "On a
couple different occasions I saw him hit her with his forearm, just
kind of shove her out of the way.
"There was a time when her hand was smashed up
pretty good, and it was wrapped up, and I asked her what happened,"
Greg Seaman testified. "She told me, 'It was your father. He threw a
chair.' ... He had a reputation for being kind of a wild, violent
Earlier in the week, though, Seaman's older son,
Jeff, testified for the prosecution, telling jurors that he never saw
signs that his mother was abused. He did, however, say that his
parents had argued a lot in the time leading up to the killing. Jeff
Seaman also described his father as his best friend.
Another key piece in the prosecution's case was
surveillance video from a Home Depot, where Seaman bought the hatchet.
Seaman sat quietly as the jury watched the
surveillance video of her buying a hatchet on May 9, which she then
allegedly took home and used to murder her husband.
Two days after the murder, prosecutors said, Seaman
went back to Home Depot, shoplifted another hatchet, and returned it
with the receipt from the hatchet she bought the day of the killing.
Lenore Walker testifies Nancy Seaman was a "battered woman"
Lenore Walker, who coined the term "battered
woman syndrome," said she was certain school teacher Nancy
Seaman, on trial for hacking her husband to death with a hatchet, was
a victim of abuse and acted in self-defense. But Dr. Walker was not
allowed to tell a jury about her findings as Michigan law precludes
experts from giving an opinion about whether someone suffers from the
syndrome because it is not classified as a mental illness. Walker said
she was surprised by the restriction that she claimed she has not
encountered in the hundreds of trials in which she has testified in
Instead, she testified about the
syndrome in general, describing typical behavior for battered women.
"A lot of what you want to explain by your own
common sense doesn't make sense in a domestic violence situation,
(because) fear takes over," Dr. Walker said.
"I wouldn't be
here if I didn't think she was a battered woman who acted in
self-defense," Walker said afterward. Dr. Walker was paid $3,500
for her court appearance and began studying battered women in 1974.
Dr. Walker said Nancy Seaman
"spent a lifetime of covering up" the abuse
that she claimed was typical behavior for battered women. She said
women who don't fight back over many years might all of a sudden do so
if the pattern of abuse changes. When a battered woman does fight
back, there often is "overkill," Dr. Walker
said, because she fears the batterer is not really dead and will come
after her. Note that Mrs. Seaman hacked and stabbed her husband dozens
However, Dr. Walker did not meet with
Nancy Seaman, but based her conclusions on psychologist Michael
Abramsky's report. Note that such hearsay is commonly admitted as
evidence in domestic violence trials. Abramsky gave similar testimony
and also was not permitted to give a specific opinion on Mrs. Seaman.
On cross-examination, Dr. Walker said
battered woman syndrome alone — minus the self-defense component — was
not a justification for killing.
Nancy Seaman claimed she suffered 30
years of on-and-off abuse before she killed her husband. One of her
two sons backed up her story. The other testified he had never seen
any abuse and did not believe her.
Lisa Ortlieb, an Oakland County
assistant prosecutor who heads the domestic violence section at the
prosecutor's office, has said she does not believe Nancy Seaman was
abused. But even if there was abuse, Ms Ortlieb argues that
self-defense could not have been involved. She says Nancy Seaman
bought the hatchet on Mother's Day for the express purpose of killing
her husband and killed him that evening. Mrs. Seaman claimed she
bought the hatchet for yard work and did not kill him until the next
morning after he attacked her.
Tempers flare, wife kills husband with axe in
After brutally killing her husband woman taught her fourth-grade
class and then cleaned up the murder scene
The end came on the afternoon of
Mother's Day, May 9, 2004. Nancy and Robert Seaman were celebrating at
home in Farmington Hills with their older son when they began to
The yelling grew so intense that their
son left for his Downriver home. Within 10 minutes after their son
left, Nancy Seaman was at the Commerce Township Home Depot purchasing
an ax, said Farmington Hills police, who reconstructed the night and
following days through evidence and interviews.
Police say Nancy Seaman, 52, then
returned to the rambling Tudor in the Ramblewood subdivision. She
walked into the kitchen and slammed the ax into her husband's head.
Then she dragged her husband's body a short distance into the attached
garage and began stabbing him with a knife, slit his throat, and
smashing him with a sledgehammer, police said.
Robert Seaman, 57, was left with
multiple stab wounds, a crushed skull, a fractured clavicle, and a
slashed throat. An autopsy revealed Robert Seaman was struck at least
15 times with the hatchet and stabbed 21 times with a knife.
The next day Nancy Seaman taught her
fourth-grade class. Administrators at Longacre Elementary School told
detectives that the friendly and award-winning teacher appeared
disheveled and out of sorts on Monday, according to Police Chief
"In the classroom
she displayed a friendliness. She had a close relationship with her
students, and she was well-liked," Dwyer said.
"But then there
was another side," he said. "She'd be
outraged, violent. She threw things."
After the final school bell rang
Monday afternoon, police said, Nancy Seaman returned to the Home
Depot. Videotapes from the store and receipts found in her purse
revealed bleach, a tarp, duct tape and products used to scrub her home
were purchased with cash.
On Tuesday night, a relative filed a
missing person's report for Robert Seaman. By Wednesday, an
out-of-town relative called police suggesting foul play. On May 12,
2004, police went to the Seaman home. There police detectives found
Robert Seaman's decomposing body wrapped in a tarp tightly coiled with
duct tape in the back of the couple's black Ford Explorer. A knife was
also discovered inside the tarp.
When she was arrested, Nancy Seaman,
who had been telling friends and police for three days she had no idea
where her husband was, told police "it was an
accident...he was beating me." Employees at her husband's
business, Put One in the Upper Deck, an indoor batting cage in
Northville, told police she had a temper.
On May 14, 2004, Nancy Seaman, 52,
stood before 47 th District Judge James
Brady. Clad in a green sweatshirt, she pled not guilty to a charge of
first-degree murder. Before a courtroom full of family, Seaman never
once turned back to meet their eyes. She didn't stop to say good-bye
to her child.
Nancy Seaman's attorney, Don Ferris,
claimed that she had endured a lifetime of physical abuse from her
husband, including hitting, kicking, and knifing.
In court, Ferris claimed Mrs. Seaman
had suffered a broken hand and wrist because of previous abuse by her
husband. At least once he claimed her husband had slashed her hand
with a knife. Robert Seaman, Ferris said, made a habit of hitting and
kicking his wife.
"Her sons will
testify that she made repeated trips to the emergency room but never
reported her husband," Ferris said. "Her son
will say that when he goes to buy her blouses, he buys long sleeves
because she always has bruises."
Friends and acquaintances told police
detectives that Robert Seaman was cheating on his wife. But Oakland
County Assistant Prosecutor Tom McAndrew said there is no evidence
that Seaman mistreated his wife.
"There was no
evidence of physical abuse to her," McAndrew said.
"Her bruises could have been self-imposed. And
she was trying to clean up and roll his body in a tarp. She lied to
her son about where her husband was."
The Seamans were preparing to divorce.
Nancy was living on the upper floor of their home, Robert on the first
Both are native Michiganders. Robert
attended a private college in the West and earned an engineering
degree. It isn't known where Nancy attended school before she began
They married in 1973 and had two sons.
The older is 26, married, works as an engineer and lives Downriver.
The younger is 22 and set to graduate from Purdue University on
Cops: Tempers flared, wife killed husband wife
They say she later taught fourth-grade class and
then cleaned up
By Marsha Low - Free Press
May 15, 2004
The end came on the afternoon of Mother's Day.
Nancy and Robert Seaman were celebrating at home in Farmington Hills
with their older son when they began to argue.
The yelling grew so intense, the son left for his
Downriver home. Within 10 minutes, Nancy Seaman was at the Commerce
Township Home Depot purchasing an ax, said Farmington Hills police,
who reconstructed the night and following days through evidence and
Police say Seaman then returned to the rambling
Tudor in the Ramblewood subdivision. She walked into the kitchen and
slammed the ax into her husband's head.
Then she dragged her husband's body a short
distance into the attached garage and began stabbing him with a knife
and smashing him with a sledgehammer, police said.
The next day, Seaman taught her fourth-grade class,
and then stopped at Home Depot a second time for cleaning materials to
wipe up the mess, police said.
On Friday afternoon, Seaman, 52, stood before 47th
District Judge James Brady. Clad in a green sweatshirt, she pleaded
not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder. She faces life in
prison if convicted.
Robert Seaman, 50, was left with 20 stab wounds, a
crushed skull, a fractured clavicle and a slashed throat.
Nancy Seaman's attorney said Friday that she had
endured a lifetime of physical abuse from her husband, including
hitting, kicking and knifing.
Administrators at Longacre Elementary School told
detectives that the friendly and award-winning teacher appeared
disheveled and out of sorts on Monday, according to Police Chief
After the final bell rang Monday afternoon, police
said, Nancy Seaman returned to the Home Depot. Videotapes from the
store and receipts found in her purse revealed bleach, a tarp, duct
tape and products used to scrub her home were purchased with cash.
On Tuesday night, a relative filed a missing
person's report for Robert Seaman. By Wednesday, an out-of-town
relative called police suggesting foul play. Police went to the Seaman
There they found Robert Seaman's body in the back
of the couple's black Ford Explorer. His body was wrapped in the tarp,
tightly coiled with duct tape. A knife was discovered inside the tarp.
"In the classroom she displayed a friendliness. She
had a close relationship with her students, and she was well-liked,"
"But then there was another side," he said. "She'd
be outraged, violent. She threw things."
Employees at her husband's business, Put One in the
Upper Deck, an indoor batting cage in Northville, told police she had
Inside the Seamans' gated neighborhood, details of
the couple's relationship have residents buzzing.
"This is one of the most exclusive subdivisions in
Farmington Hills," said Tom Bryant, a Ramblewood resident. "Things
like this don't happen here. People are wondering if it was a lover
who killed him."
At the district court Friday, family members wept,
rubbed their eyes and smiled at one another. They declined to comment
about the couple or the details of the crime.
In court, Nancy Seaman's attorney, Don Ferris, said
she had suffered a broken hand and wrist because of abuse by her
husband. At least once, her husband slashed her hand with a knife.
Robert Seaman, Ferris said, made a habit of hitting and kicking his
"Her sons will testify that she made repeated trips
to the emergency room but never reported her husband," Ferris said.
"Her son will say that when he goes to buy her
blouses, he buys long sleeves because she always has bruises."
Friends and acquaintances told police detectives
that Robert Seaman was cheating on his wife. But Oakland County
Assistant Prosecutor Tom McAndrew said there is no evidence that
Seaman mistreated his wife.
"There was no evidence of physical abuse to her,"
McAndrew said. "Her bruises could have been self-imposed. And she was
trying to clean up and roll his body in a tarp. She lied to her son
about where her husband was."
The Seamans were preparing to divorce, Dwyer said.
Nancy was living on the upper floor of their home, Robert on the first
Both are native Michiganders. Robert attended a
private college in the West and earned an engineering degree. It is
unclear where Nancy attended school before she began teaching.
They married in 1973 and had two sons. The older is
26, married, works as an engineer and lives Downriver. The younger is
22 and set to graduate from Purdue University on Sunday.
Nancy Seaman has been in custody since Wednesday
night. Dwyer said she has spoken very little and spends time just
Before a courtroom full of family, Seaman never
once turned back to meet their eyes. She didn't stop to say good-bye
to her child.
Her preliminary exam will begin at 9 a.m. May 24.
Produced By Nancy Kramer, Lourdes Aguiar and Taigi
Smith - CBSNews.com
April 9, 2005
Just four years ago, a camera captured one of Nancy
Seaman's proudest moments, as she accepted an award for doing what she
But now, many news cameras are fixed on Seaman, an
award-winning teacher known for her patience and kindness. She's
accused of a horrific crime - the hatchet murder of her husband, Bob
"I loved him. If I had to redo May 10, I wish I
would have let him just kill me," says Seaman. "I'm not guilty of
What made her do it? "This is a very complex case,"
says Seaman. "It wasn't as simple as wife kills husband with a
The answer, according to Seaman, has been kept well
hidden for so long. Seaman says that behind private gates, inside her
sprawling home, she lived the life of a battered woman.
Her case will turn on the Seamans' two sons, on
their two sons, Jeff and Greg. And, as Correspondent Maureen Maher
reports, what they say about their parents' marriage, and the life
they all shared, will either condemn or free their mother.
Nancy and Bob Seaman met in 1972. It was love at
"He was really charming. He was very confident,"
recalls Seaman. "He was a very strong personality. And I felt very
secure. He was my knight in shining armor."
The two made a brilliant couple, literally. Nancy
was valedictorian of her high school class. And Bob was an engineer on
his way up - first at Ford Motor Company, and later at automotive
manufacturer Borg Warner.
But from the beginning, there were cracks in the
marriage. Seaman says the first incident of abuse occurred when they
"We were in the car coming home from his brother's
wedding reception and Bob was drunk. He had too much to drink. And he
reached over, and he tried to push me out of a moving car. And he's
pounding me with his fists," recalls Seaman. "I was in a state of
shock. I had never experienced anything like this before, had never
witnessed anything like it."
Why did she decide to stay in the relationship? "I
was naďve, only 21 years old. And I just loved him," says Seaman. "And
I said, 'This has to be a fluke. This is a one-time thing.'"
oon, there were two reasons to stay: Seaman's sons,
Jeff and Greg. And from the outside, looking in, Seaman says they were
the perfect family.
But Bob's controlling and explosive nature became
more and more evident. "It was always very abusive. It was very
aggressive," says Seaman's son, Greg, who remembers his father calling
his mother names.
Why didn't Seaman stand up for herself against the
alleged verbal abuse? "I know that if I talked to Bob that way, it
would escalate the abuse," says Seaman. "It would escalate his anger
and his rage, and I knew not to do that, because if I did, it made the
For the first 20 years of the marriage, Seaman says
the physical abuse was sporadic - one or two incidents a year. But in
1995, there was a new strain on the marriage when Bob lost his high
paying job just as Seaman was about to launch her own career as an
award-winning elementary school teacher.
"And my dad started to lose some of his identity,
and my mom started to feel some resentment because now she was the
major breadwinner and he wasn't," says Seaman's son, Jeff.
Meanwhile, Bob decided he would pour his heart into
something that had always made him happy -- baseball. He opened a
batting cage for kids called The Upper Deck, and Jeff says his mother
viewed it "as another wedge between them."
Seaman, however, says the real wedge between them
was a happier family he met through his business: the Dumbletons. Her
sons agree. "It was almost like my dad assumed a father role with
their family," says Greg. His brother, Jeff, adds, "The Dumbletons
really became like the substitute relatives for my dad."
Bob coached the Dumbleton kids, and their mother,
Julie, volunteered to be his bookkeeper. But Seaman suspected there
might have been more to the relationship.
When asked if Bob was having an affair with Julie
Dumbleton, Greg shared this observation: "We would say that we hoped
he was. Because the behavior was so eerie that it was the only thing
that could possibly explain it."
Jeff, however, strongly disagrees: "That's the most
ludicrous thing I've ever heard. I mean, they were friends, but my dad
was better friends with her husband, Dick, who he initially met."
Whatever the relationship was with Julie, Nancy
says that at home, Bob's behavior toward her was becoming increasingly
violent. On June 29, 2001, Seaman says Bob threw a chair at her,
sending her to the emergency room.
"That was the day I was going to tell because I had
been there before," says Seaman. "I walked in and sat down in that
triage room in tears and I was crying. And I looked over and I saw a
parent from my school and I knew I just couldn't let her overhear what
was going on. If I told, she was within earshot of what I was saying.
If she found out, the grapevine at school, I just couldn't do that. My
career was everything to me."
When Jeff married his college sweetheart, Becka, in
August 2001, Nancy and Bob's relationship was more fractured than
ever. Yet, Seaman still hoped that things would work out. The marriage
would end, but not in divorce.
The Seamans were a family who had more cars than
people - including an expensive Ferrari, and a classic Shelby. But it
was a fight over a broken down 1989 Mustang that would be the point of
no return - not only for Bob and Nancy, but also for Bob and his son,
Restoring the old Mustang was supposed to be a
bonding project between Greg and his father. But Seaman says it turned
into a fight: "He was verbally abusing Greg, telling him what an
asshole he was, that he didn't know what he was doing. And he told
Greg to pack his things, he threw him out on the street on his
birthday, and told him to never come home again."
It was just a car, but it was also a symbol of a
disintegrating family, which crumbled even more when Bob eventually
gave the Mustang to the Dumbletons. "I couldn't stand to see him hurt
my son," says Seaman, of the fallout between Bob and Greg. But she
still wasn't willing to give up on the marriage. So she planned her
mornings to get out of the house before her husband was awake.
By February 2004, Seaman had enough. She devised an
escape plan and pulled the boys in on it. She secretly purchased a
brand new condo, and slowly began to box up her things. She told Bob
that the condo was for Greg.
Meanwhile, Bob was making his own plans to leave
the marriage, and went to Arizona to consult with his brother, Dennis,
about his options. "It was almost like you could tell he was done,"
says Dennis. "Done with her."
On Mother's Day weekend, in 2004, Bob flew back to
Michigan. He was excited about the prospect of starting over. "That
was kind of the epiphany for Bob, because he really realized that he
had a good long life ahead of him, that he could do something with
it," says Dennis.
Seaman was spending Mother's Day at Jeff's house.
On Sunday evening, everyone returned to the Seaman's house, and
immediately, another blowup ensued. Seaman wanted to borrow Bob's Ford
Explorer to pick up Greg from college. Bob said no. A fight started,
and Jeff and his wife left at about 7 p.m.
At 7:37, surveillance video from a nearby Home
Depot showed Nancy buying a hatchet. She claims she was going to use
the hatchet to chop up a stump in the backyard.
"You don't decide in 20 minutes, 'Oh I think I'll
kill my husband. Oh, let me go buy a hatchet,'" says Seaman, who says
she never planned to murder Bob. "The hatchet was bought for yard work
because I did all the yard work."
Seaman says she then came home from the store and
went to bed. On May 10, the day after Mother's Day, she says she got
up around 5:30 a.m., got dressed and went to the kitchen to make her
lunch. She saw Bob sitting at the kitchen counter. They didn't say a
word, but they were about to have the last argument of their marriage.
"He said, 'I think we need to talk about going our
separate ways.' And he was very calm about it. And I responded in a
way that was probably antagonistic, because I said, 'I am so ready to
do this. Let's just do it,'" recalls Seaman.
"That's when it started, because he said, 'Who the
hell do you think you are? You think I don't know about that condo?'
Because I had said, 'Fine, let's do this. I said I've already made
plans. I want to move on.' He said, 'You think I don't know that you
have a condo, and that it's not for Greg, it's for you? I know all
about the condo,'" adds Seaman. "He said, 'You weren't home this
weekend.' He said, 'I went through the house looking for you. I found
those boxes. That's not Greg's stuff. That's your stuff.'"
In the past, Seaman says Bob never used a weapon
against her. But this time, he grabbed a kitchen knife. "I'm sure he
didn't mean to kill me with it at that point," recalls Seaman. "But he
just took, and he said, 'You bitch,' and he just glanced [sliced]
across my hand as I'm reaching."
Seaman says she knew she had to get out of the
house. She grabbed her keys, her bag, and she ran to the front door.
But when she got there, she noticed something strange. The key that
used to open the door from the inside, which was usually kept in the
lock, was missing. She says at that point she knew the only other way
out of the house was to run down the hall and out through the garage.
"He kicks me; he grabs me. Then he came for the
last time towards me. He's telling me … 'Never let you have half of my
assets. I will see you dead first,'" says Seaman. "And when he bent
over, and he's telling me he'll see me dead, I'm hoisting myself up. I
feel the handle of the hatchet. I picked it up, and I swung it."
For the first time, after 30 years of arguing and
alleged abuse, Seaman says she fought back: "I couldn't stop. I
couldn't stop hitting him. I was terrified out of my mind. I didn't
know if it was one time, two times, three times."
She hit him 16 times with the hatchet. Then, with a
knife, she stabbed him 21 more times in the back.
"It was not rage. I was terrified," says Seaman.
"There is a difference between -- rage indicates anger. It was not
anger. I was terrified at this point, for me."
But after the killing, Seaman didn't call the
police, and she didn't call her sons. Instead, she took a shower, and
managed to get herself to school just like she did every morning.
How did she compose herself well enough to teach a
bunch of elementary kids? "It was a blur. The only thing I can tell
you is that, for me, going to school was always a safe place," says
Seaman. "I went there so many times after he abused me. And it was the
only place I ever felt good about myself. That morning, I was in shock
After school, Nancy began a frantic cleanup: buying
bleach, plastic gloves, a tarp and duct tape. She bleached the floor,
painted the walls and cleaned up the blood.
Why didn't she call the cops? Why didn't she tell
them that she killed her husband because he was trying to kill her?
"The horror of it is something you can't even
imagine. You can't, you cannot possibly think that there was any
rational thought there," says Seaman. "The only thing that happened at
that point was I was on auto-pilot doing what I had done for 30 years.
I was fixing the ugliness. Fixing it because when the ugliness was
gone. It was like it never happened."
On Tuesday night, the Farmington Hills police
knocked on Seaman's door. According to the authorities, Nancy came to
the door, acted surprised, and told the officer that her husband was
having a midlife crisis, and that he was just trying to find himself.
But Bob was actually hidden away in Seaman's car, which was parked on
Days went by, and calls to report Bob Seaman
missing were pouring in. Strangely, none of the calls were from his
The police were baffled, and they returned to the
house to investigate. "They looked everywhere. They even made a point
of stopping in the garage, and commenting on how clean the garage
was," says Lisa Ortleib, the prosecutor on the case. "They noticed it
had an odor of bleach and paint. It smelled nice."
Why did Seaman lie to the police about the
whereabouts of her husband? "I just think it was probably shock," says
Seaman. "I could never accept what happened. When I left that morning,
I could not accept what happened."
But Ortleib doesn't think that Seaman would have
ever turned herself in: "She was going to dump the body. She had
already taken painstaking efforts to hide her role."
On Wednesday afternoon, Seaman went to the store
again, purchased more gloves, and a bottle of air freshener. Shortly
after she returned home, the police came back again to press Seaman
about where they might find her missing husband.
Ortleib says police asked to look inside Seaman's
SUV: "She opened it, and as the hatch opened, it was immediately
apparent that's where Bob was. And she immediately pushed her hands
down on what she had put on his body to conceal it. And she said,
'That's just my condo stuff. That's my moving stuff.'"
In the SUV, near a bottle of air freshener, wrapped
in a blue tarp, was Bob's body.
Soon, both sons received the most disturbing phone
calls of their lives. "I actually, at that time, thought that my dad
had killed my mom, and then probably killed himself," recalls Greg.
"So at that time, I was thinking I'd probably lost both parents."
Why would Greg think that his father killed his
mother? "Because she was getting out," says Greg. "And to picture her
ever doing something like this, you couldn't."
From the moment of her arrest, Seaman began to
launch her controversial defense. She had the police photograph her
body -- evidence shots show that showed numerous bruises on her arms
"There were other instances where I'd get thrown
into walls -- he didn't like the look on my face, the tone of my
voice, I didn't do what I was told," says Seaman.
"I believe that she was abused," says defense
attorney Larry Kaluzny, a low-key lawyer known for taking high profile
cases. "It wasn't just physical abuse. The emotional abuse was
Kaluzny says he believes that Seaman killed her
husband, but that it was an act of self-defense: "I believe she
thought she was going to die that day."
Kaluzny will try Seaman's case along with his son,
Todd. To bolster their theory, this father/son team hires Dr. Lenore
Walker, the country's leading expert on abused women.
"I have no question that Nancy Seaman was an abused
woman," says Walker, who coined the phrase "battered woman's
syndrome." She says it's not uncommon for a woman to keep her abuse a
secret, even for 30 years.
"People in general don't want to believe that
somebody as smart as Nancy Seaman, and as competent and strong, that
somebody like her would really have been battered for that length of
time," says Walker.
But Ortleib, who also runs Oakland County's
domestic violence unit, disagrees: "I think the only domestic violence
in this case was when she killed him."
Ortleib says Seaman's claims of abuse are nothing
more than a strategy for her jury trial: "She couldn't claim she was
insane. She couldn't claim she didn't do it. So what's she gonna
claim? She's gonna claim self-defense, 'I had to do it.'"
For six months, Seaman waited in a tiny cell in the
Oakland county jail. Finally, on Nov. 29, 2004, she went on trial for
Ortleib firmly believes that it was rage, not fear,
that drove Seaman to kill: "She was going to be losing the beautiful
home, the beautiful picture of the family, the life that she lead
everyone to believe was occurring in her life."
Ortleib also believes that although Seaman secretly
made plans to leave Bob, she was furious when her husband announced
that he was leaving her first.
Nancy was stinging over Bob's relationship with the
Dumbletons, especially Julie Dumbleton.
"She called my house and threatened my son, and
threatened me," says Julie Dumbleton. Julie testifies she and Bob
never had an affair, but Seaman's jealousy led to a pushing and
shoving incident at the Upper Deck. "She was very angry. She called me
a name. She was yelling."
There was one more clue to what the prosecution
says took place in the garage -- the substantial marital assets.
Remember Bob's conversation with his brother, Dennis? Dennis had
advised Bob that he would be entitled to half of whatever Nancy had,
including her brand new condo.
"It's probably the most regrettable thing I have,
is it ever-- telling him something that he -- I know darn well he went
back and probably said right to her," says Dennis. "I think that sent
her right over the edge."
"And I think that lead her to leave, to go straight
to Home Depot, where she went straight to the hatchets," says Ortleib.
The prosecution contends that the murder happened
on Sunday night and not on Monday morning like Seaman says. The proof?
Bob was found wearing the same clothes that he was wearing on that
Mother's Day Sunday.
And that first Home Depot was not the most damning.
On May 11, store cameras record Seaman on tape again. This time, the
cameras caught her stealing a hatchet identical to the one used to
kill her husband.
The most crucial evidence in the case is about to
unfold. And the blood feud boiling between Seaman's two sons is about
to take center stage in their mother's murder trial.
Jeff Seaman will testify for the prosecution. And
his brother, Greg Seaman, will testify for the defense. But the two
brothers clash over every point in their mother's story, beginning
with what happened after their father lost his job.
"He was a lot more irritable," says Greg. "You
could tell he was getting stressed out at the fact that he had been
fired." Jeff, however, says "there was no mental decline," and that
his father had actually "mellowed as he got older."
"Right before this happened, Jeff was just like
everybody else, saying, 'I can't believe how nuts he's going,'" says
Greg. "And then, all of a sudden this happens and now he elevates our
dad to this untouchable pedestal. I don't know if he's lying to
himself or he's actually convinced himself of that."
The brothers also have conflicting explanations for
what brought their mother to Home Depot that Mother's Day night. Greg
says his mother always maintained the yard and the house, so there is
an explanation for her purchase that was no surprise. Greg says his
mother always maintained the yard and the house, so her purchase was
no surprise. But Jeff disagrees: "When I hear things like, 'Your mom
was buying an axe in a driving rainstorm to chop up a tree stump,
that's ridiculous. Tell me another one. I didn't fall off the turnip
But nowhere is the divide between the brothers
deeper than over their mother's explosive allegation that she was a
battered wife. Jeff denies that his mother was an abused wife, but
Greg says he often saw injuries.
"I … we saw bruises all the time," recalls Greg,
who says his mother would come up with excuses for her injuries. "But
I think you can only fall so many times."
"If my sons knew, they'd hate their father and I
couldn't let them hate him," says Seaman. "I wanted them to love him."
Jeff admits to seeing bruises on his mother, but he
says his mother only mentioned abuse once she'd decided to leave - a
move Jeff believes she devised to gain advantage in the upcoming
"She showed us a bruise on her arm. And claimed
that a wrist that she'd had problems with was broken by my dad in a
fight," says Jeff. "The wrist was something that she'd injured a long
time ago, tripping on a sidewalk."
Because Seaman's sons couldn't agree on what they
saw, Nancy's colleagues were called to the stand. They said they
remembered seeing Seaman with a black eye, and injuries to her arm and
"The very last time I saw her, her hands shook
during her lunch with me," recalls Paulette Schleuter, one of Seaman's
oldest friends. Schleuter recalls a disturbing conversation that she
had with Seaman, just two months before Bob's death: "She said,
'There's something the matter with him. He's going crazy.' But she did
not tell me that he was beating her or hitting her, but she was
visibly shaken. She was afraid of him."
Schleuter says the last thing Seaman said to her
was, "Pray for me."
Now, it is Seaman's turn to take the stand - and it
is up to her to convince the jury that she was a battered wife, and
not a murderer.
Seaman told the jury she suffered 94 attacks at the
hands of her husband: "It was hard to think about them because I
didn't realize there were so many of them."
In the most dramatic moment of the trial, Seaman
demonstrates how she defended her life that day. "I'm covered up. I'm
curled up and covered up. … And he's coming toward me and he's mad,"
says Seaman. "As I'm getting up, there's a black railing around the
generator, and I'm using it for leverage. And as I get up, I feel the
handle of a hatchet. I pick it up and I swing it at him."
She then tries to explain what turned the attack
into an overkill: "I don't physically remember stabbing him. But
obviously I did. But I was screaming at him to get off of me. Get off
of me. Just get off of me. I ran up the stairs and closed the door."
"Even after she knows he's dead, she doesn't accept
that," adds Larry Kaluzny. "She still thinks, 'He's gonna come up the
stairs and get me. He's not dead.' And I think that's hard for anybody
But what about the bleaching, the painting,
scrubbing the crime scene clean - even her attempt to put the hatchet
back in the store? "She's always been the fixer, and that's the big
theme of the case," says Todd Kaluzny. "That was Nancy doing what she
had always done. … And as irrational as that may sound, she thought at
this point in time, 'I can fix this.'"
After two days, Seaman says she realized there was
no fixing what had happened. "I sat down and cried, next to his body.
But when I was laying on his body in that garage, I was also so angry
at him," recalls Seaman. "I kept saying, 'Bob, why did you do this to
me? Why did you do this to me?'"
Now Seaman, an alleged battered woman, had to come
face to face with a domestic violence prosecutor. Ortleib asks Seaman
why she never went for help or called the police. Seaman says she
didn't call a shelter or file a protective order against her husband.
So was Seaman abused or not? The defense called
expert Dr. Lenore Walker to the stand. She should have been the star
witness, but Michigan law will only allow her to speak about battered
women in general terms.
"The most dangerous time is at the point at which
the woman is preparing to leave the relationship," says Walker.
But had Walker been able to testify about Seaman,
she would have told the jury, "It wasn't just him coming after her
this time with a knife, but all the fragments of all the incidents
that have happened to her over the years that terrified her."
But will the jury see Seaman as the assaulted or
Which picture of Seaman will the jury believe? The
warm-hearted teacher, or the cold-blooded killer? And which picture of
the marriage will the jury believe?
"She wasn't trying to punish him," says Kaluzny.
"She wasn't trying to kill him or hurt him. She was afraid."
"The problem with her case, it's based on a string
of lies," says Ortleib. "The defendant's lies. Lie after lie after
As proof, Ortleib points to the very bruises Seaman
said were evidence she'd been battered. "Those bruises could be
consistent with killing, with cleaning, with painting, with scrubbing,
with wrapping, with tarping, with taping and loading," says Ortleib.
"Those bruises weren't from Bob."
Seven months after Seaman was murdered, her case is
in the hands of the jury. It took Seaman 30 years to end her marriage.
But it takes the jury less than five hours to decide on the rest of
her life. Their verdict: guilty of murder in the first degree.
Despite her emotions on the stand, Seaman shows no
reaction to the verdict.
One month later, Seaman goes to court for one last
time. Only Greg comes to stand by her mother as she is sentenced. "I
lost a father who I loved," he says. "Robert Seaman accomplished a lot
in his life, but everything that he accomplished will forever be
overshadowed by the fact that he was a wife beater."
In a stunning move from the bench, the judge calls
Seaman's other son, Jeff, a liar. But Jeff says the judge's opinion
matters very little to him: "What matters to me are what my family,
and what my friends think. And my family and my friends and people
that know me and know my dad know what the truth is."
The judge goes on to sympathize with Seaman: "I
can't believe for one instance that you went out to Home Depot to buy
a hatchet to kill your husband. It just doesn't make any sense. I
don't take any pleasure in sentencing you to life in prison, but I
have no discretion in imposing the sentence I have to impose by law. I
only feel pity for you and I feel pity for your family."
In the end, Nancy Seaman traded a life of privilege
behind private gates for a life behind prison bars. And saddest of
all, the family she says she desperately tried to keep together would
turn out more broken than ever.
"All I can say to my sons is I'm very sorry. And I
want them to know that I loved their father," says Seaman. "They know
that I did. I want the boys to know that I love them with all my
heart. And I wish that I could undo what happened May 10, but I hope
they find their way back together."