Saturday, December 4, 2004

Son testifies that slain father was known to be a 'wild, violent brawler'

By Sarah Karush / Associated Press

PONTIAC -- A woman on trial for hacking her husband to death with a hatchet cried as her younger son backed up her claim that she had been an abused wife.

Nancy Seaman of Farmington Hills does not deny killing her 57-year-old husband, Robert, but claims to have done so in self-defense.

Greg Seaman, who was called to testify by the defense, said his mother was a battered wife who suffered "almost constant verbal abuse" and some physical abuse, including instances in which Mr. Seaman struck his wife with his forearm and shoved her.

Robert Seaman "had a reputation for being kind of a wild, violent brawler," the 23-year-old said Friday.

Greg Seaman's testimony came days after his brother, Jeff, 25, testified for the prosecution, saying he lost his best friend when his father died, but that he would not relish seeing his mother go to jail. If convicted, she faces mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jeff Seaman testified Wednesday that he never saw any physical abuse and that his parents had been arguing quite a bit in the time leading up to the killing.

Prosecutors say Nancy Seaman, 52, got into a fight with Robert Seaman on Mother's Day, went to a store and bought a hatchet, then returned to chop, stab and bludgeon him to death with the hatchet and a pocket knife.

They say she later wrapped his body in a tarp and placed it in the back of the couple's sport utility vehicle. Authorities found the body in the Ford Explorer at their home days later.

Defense attorney Lawrence Kaluzny on Friday showed the jury photos of bruises on Nancy Seaman's body taken after she was arrested.

Farmington Hills Police Officer Craig Dersa said Seaman specifically asked that her injuries be photographed. He said she told him they were from past domestic violence incidents.

The photos showed numerous bruises on her arms and legs and scratch on her hand.

Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Ortlieb said during a break in the trial that the injuries were easily explained by "all the chopping, hacking, butchering, stabbing and slashing" Seaman did when she killed her husband, followed by the extensive cleanup afterward, including bleaching the floor, painting the walls and loading her husband's body into the Explorer.

Several colleagues of Seaman's from Long Acre Elementary School as well as friends testified on her behalf Friday. Many of them flashed her supportive smiles from the stand.

Paulette Schlueter, a family friend, said she last saw Seaman at a lunch date in March. Schlueter said Seaman's last words to her were "pray for me."

Richard Cox, a business partner of Robert Seaman, testified that Seaman did not cope well with losing his job and that he had an "explosive" temper.

"Many times I stood before him with him yelling in my face with clenched fists," he said.

Several of Nancy Seaman's colleagues said they saw her with a black eye a few years ago. They said she told them she was hit by a car door.

The trial is set to resume Monday afternoon. Nancy Seaman is expected to testify next week.