Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

home

last updates

MALE murderers

by country

by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
   

FEMALE murderers

by country

by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 

Nancy Ann SEAMAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


Birth name: Nancy Ann Donofrio
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - She argued that she killed her husband in self-defense
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 10, 2004
Date of arrest: Two days later
Date of birth: May 13, 1952
Victim profile: Robert Seaman, 57 (her husband)
Method of murder: Hitting him 15 times with a hatchet and stabbing him 21 times with a knife
Location: Farmington Hills, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on January 24, 2005
 
 

 
 

photo gallery

 
 

 

State of Michigan
Court of Appeals

 

People of the Sate of Michigan v. Nancy Ann Seaman

 

opinion

dissenting

 
 

 

United States District Court
Eastern District of Michigan

 

Nancy Seaman v. Heidi Washington

 
 

 

United States Court of Appeals
For the Sixth Circuit

 

Nancy Seaman v. Heidi Washington

 
 

 
 

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 was premeditated.

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 syndrome.

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.

Marital abuse

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 her first.

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 death.

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.

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

Mlive.com

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

FarmingtonEnterprise.wordpress.com

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

MichiganDaily.com

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,” Seaman said.

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 days later.

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 started.;

“I don’t doubt for a minute that you were physically and emotionally abused. I don’t think the jury doubted it,” McDonald said.

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 hatchet blows.

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 prison.

"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 first time."

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 options.

"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 was "insincere."

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 the trial.

"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 authorities.

"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."

Prosecutors agreed.

"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

Abcnews.go.com

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 lunch.

"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 own terms.

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 down."

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 police again.

Prosecutors contend that whatever her husband might have done, Seaman planned the murder and did not truly act in self-defense.

"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 brawler."

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"

Ejfi.com

December 15, 2004

Pontiac — 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 other states.

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 of times.

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 Farmington Hills

After brutally killing her husband woman taught her fourth-grade class and then cleaned up the murder scene

Ejfi.org

May 15, 2004

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 argue.

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 William Dwyer.

"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 floor.

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 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.


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 interviews.

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 William Dwyer.

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 home.

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," Dwyer said.

"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 a temper.

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 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, Dwyer said. Nancy was living on the upper floor of their home, Robert on the first floor.

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 staring.

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.


Blood Feud

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 loved: teaching.

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 Seaman.

"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 murder."

What made her do it? "This is a very complex case," says Seaman. "It wasn't as simple as wife kills husband with a hatchet."

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 first sight.

"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 were newlyweds.

"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 situation worse."

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, Greg.

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 for sure."

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 the driveway.

Days went by, and calls to report Bob Seaman missing were pouring in. Strangely, none of the calls were from his wife, Nancy.

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 and legs.

"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 probably greater."

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 first-degree murder.

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 truck yesterday."

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 divorce.

"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 leg.

"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 to understand."

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 the assailant?

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 lie."

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."

 

 

 
 
 
 
contact