Man Confesses to Setting Circus Fire

Man Confesses to Setting Circus Fire

The following is a transcript of a news article published in several American newspapers dated June 30, 1950:

Columbus, Ohio -- Robert Dale Segee, 21, Circleville, Ohio, has signed statements admitting he set the Ringling Brothers circus fire in Hartford, Conn. that killed 168 persons and injured 412 others. Henry J. Callan, Ohio fire marshal, made the disclosure Friday.

Callan said that Segee also admitted setting between 25 and 30 major fires in Portland, Maine between 1939 and 1946, other fires in New Hampshire and Ohio and that he is personally responsible for slaying four people.

Callan said that all of Segee's statements had been carefully checked by his investigators since Segee was taken into custody last May 17 on the farm of a relative near East St. Louis, Ill.

A Pickaway county (Ohio) grand jury Friday indicted Segee on two charges of arson, stemming from fires in Circleville, Ohio.

Prepared Statement

Callan's prepared statement about the Hartford fire said:

Segee was employed by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from June 30 to July 13, 1944. He joined the circus on June 30 at Portland, Maine and the day he joined the circus there was a fire on tent ropes that was extinguished without loss. The circus moved from Portland, Maine. to Providence, Rhode Island and while there another small fire occurred on the tent flap, which again was extinguished without loss. On July 6, 1944, at Hartford, Connecticut, the major fire occurred, which took the lives of 168 people.

A thorough and comprehensive investigation of the facts concerning Segee has disclosed, according to his own admission, that he is responsible for that and other major fires, places and dates of which were given.

Tells of Girl's Slaying

Callan said Segee said his first slaying was a 9 year old girl, beaten to death with a stone during a fit of anger. He identified the victim as Barbara Driscoll, 9, slain on a river bank at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, September 5, 1938.

Other victims, identified by Callan were:

A watchman who caught Segee setting a fire in a warehouse in Portland, Maine, March 16, 1943; a 12 year old boy strangled to death on the beach at Cape Cottage, Maine in 1943 "to the best of his (Segee's) recollection" and a Japanese boy, killed in Japan while Segee was in the United States occupation.

The last three victims listed by Callan were not identified by name, but the fire marshal said all three were actual slayings as shown by his and army investigations.