ELYRIA – A county judge has ruled that Kimberly Riley`s live-in boyfriend is responsible for her disappearance and apparent death nine years ago.
County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi ruled Thursday that Omar Seymore – who has never been charged criminally in Riley`s disappearance – was civilly liable for her death.
Riley`s mother, Sandra Ellis, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Seymore earlier this year, claiming he was responsible for killing Riley and hiding her body before disappearing himself.
Seymore – who was released from prison in July after serving time on an identity theft conviction – denied the allegations through an attorney but didn`t fight a summary judgment request in the case that allowed Miraldi to rule with only the evidence Ellis` attorney presented him.
Mike Duff, Seymore`s attorney, said he told his client not to fight the judgment because he has no assets and Riley`s family will never be able to collect anything from him, no matter how much Miraldi decides to award Ellis at a damages hearing set for Dec. 5.
“That is a paper judgment that is worthless,” Duff said.
Ellis` attorney, Chris Cook, a former assistant county prosecutor, said Seymore exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself when he refused to answer questions about Riley`s disappearance for the lawsuit.
Riley, who would be 27 if she is still alive, was last seen Dec. 23, 1998, when she and her two children left her grandmother`s house to go shopping. Her children were eventually placed in Ellis` custody.
A search of the Lorain apartment she shared with Seymore turned up blood splatter near the door.
Although most of her possessions were accounted for, a large Rubbermaid garbage can, two blankets and photo albums were missing. Her vehicle was later found in East Cleveland and more blood, later identified as belonging to Riley, was found in the car.
Seymore, now 33, disappeared as well. He was found living in California under an alias and bought back to Ohio on an outstanding felony warrant.
Lorain police Sgt. Mark Carpentiere said even though Riley`s family had her declared legally dead by a court, her fate is still considered a missing person case.
Carpentiere said he shares the belief that Riley was killed, adding that Seymore is the prime suspect in her death.
“He knows what happened to her, whether he did it or not,” he said.
There has never been any solid evidence about what happened to Riley, Carpentiere said, and there might never be – unless Seymore confesses or the family`s fears are confirmed.
“I don`t think there`s a trail anymore,” he said. “Our best chance, and I hate to say it, is if our body turns up sometime.”
Judge Miraldi said he had little choice but to find Seymore liable for Riley`s death since Seymore didn`t contest the summary judgment.
“It`s considered an admission for the purposes of the civil case,” he said.
Cook said that won`t do much for a criminal case. He compared Seymore being found civilly liable to the O.J. Simpson case. Simpson was cleared of murder charges in the 1994 stabbing deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, but was later found culpable in her death when he was sued by the victims` families.
“It`s kind of like an O.J. case,” Cook said. “It`s one thing to get a civil judgment, but it`s a lot harder to get a criminal (conviction).”
Civilly or criminally, Duff said his client isn`t responsible for what happened to Riley.
“He had nothing to do with her death,” he said.