$500,000 bond set after crash that killed attorney Annie Rooney

Written by: Jona Ison / Gazette
10/15/13

CHILLICOTHE — Bond was set at $500,000 for a woman charged in a July 4 crash that killed attorney Annie Rooney.

Shira Seymour, 36, of Harris Station Road, Bainbridge, appeared by video conferencing and pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt requested the high bond, calling Seymour a flight risk due to the seriousness of the charges and potential of facing time in prison. He also told Judge Scott Nusbaum he felt she was a risk to the community, calling her “essentially a ticking time bomb.”

Although Seymour has no felony record, Schmidt pointed to her prior misdemeanor impaired driving convictions — one in 1997 from Athens County and OVI charges from 2009 and two from 2012 that had been reduced.

Schmidt also highlighted some evidence expected to be presented at trial — a video of Seymour allegedly drinking at Jerry’s West a little more than an hour before the crash. In it, he alleged Seymour is seen falling from a bar stool and staggering.

He also mentioned two independent witnesses who spotted Seymour driving on Western Avenue just prior to the crash. One was an off-duty Chillicothe Police officer who Schmidt said chased her to the edge of Chillicothe at 70 miles per hour after allegedly spotting her speeding and running red lights.

Another witness allegedly saw Seymour driving past the intersection of Veteran’s Parkway without headlights.

Schmidt alleged Seymour was driving at 80 mph when she went left-of-center and head-on into Rooney’s SUV that was traveling an estimated 39 mph. Lab analysis alleges Seymour’s blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit.

Ross County Public Defender Susan Pettit spoke for a lesser bond, mentioning Seymour’s alleged mental health issues and continued pain from several broken bones sustained in the crash. Pettit also mentioned Seymour has several doctor’s appointments slated and an 11-year-old child she is concerned about.

Ultimately, Nusbaum went with Schmidt’s recommendation on bond and then recused himself from presiding over the case. Pettit also mentioned during the arraignment that she was only representing Seymour for arraignment, that an Athens County public defender would be assigned to the case.

Many across the local judicial system knew Rooney personally. She had been a legal intern at the Ross County Public Defender’s Office and was an assistant prosecutor under Schmidt for a few months at the end of 2012.

Rooney had joined the prosecutor’s office in a temporary position upon her return to Chillicothe from Montana where she had been a prosecutor. She continued in private practice in a rented office at the same location as the Ross County Prosecutor’s Office.

While Nusbaum has recused himself and Judge Mike Ater said he too would recuse himself if asked by the Ohio Supreme Court to preside over the case, Schmidt intends to continue as prosecution.

While judges have to be fully impartial, Schmidt said he doesn’t and that he has no conflict of interest with the witnesses or Seymour.

“It is a different kind of a case because I knew the victim, and it makes it hard in that regard,” Schmidt said.

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