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Matthew J. HOFFMAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: November 10, 2010
Date of arrest: 4 days after
Date of birth: November 1, 1980
Victims profile: Tina Herrmann, 32; her son Kody Maynard, 11; and family friend Stephanie Sprang, 41
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Apple Valley, Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison without parole on June 6, 2011
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 

Killer Stuffed His House With Leaves, Kept Kidnapped Girl on Bed of Leaves

By Jessica Hopper - ABCNews.go.com

February 10, 2011

The Ohio man found guilty of holding a 13-year-old girl hostage after killing her family and stuffing their dismembered bodies in a hollow tree had an obsession with trees and leaves, police documents show.

Pictures of Matthew Hoffman's home reveal a living room stuffed with leaves, a bathroom lined with more than 100 bags of leaves, and a freezer that contained only a couple of red popsicles and two dead squirrels.

Hoffman, 30, is serving a life sentence for three murders and for the kidnapping and rape of the teen.

The two police officers from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who first entered Hoffman's home in November 2010 discovered mounds of leaves so high they feared that bodies could be buried underneath them.

"So much runs through your mind: What if someone is hiding under that pile? Or in this case, I thought, 'Is that where he's hiding the bodies,'" Mount Vernon Police Detective Craig Feeney told the Columbus Dispatch.

By the time police entered his home, Hoffman had already killed and dismembered Tina Hermann, her 11-year-old son Kody Maynard and Hermann's friend Stephanie Sprang.

Police found Hermann's 13-year-old daughter in the basement of Hoffman's home. She was bound hand and foot and was confined to a makeshift bed of leaves.

Hoffman, an unemployed tree trimmer, confessed to investigators that he had made the bed of leaves and covered it with blankets. He told investigators that the little girl "liked that bed, it was extremely comfy and I wanted to sleep on it."

While holding the girl hostage, he gave his victim the book "Treasure Island" to read and watched the movie "Iron Man" with her, according to his confession.

He also admitted raping the girl, who was found by police wearing "a white plastic bag that had holes cut out for her legs that she was wearing like a makeshift diaper," according to case files.

Moments after her rescue, the girl told police that she was late for school and asked if they could take her to school.

Unaware that Hoffman had murdered her mother and brother, the girl told police that she feared Hoffman had killed her dog. Hoffman would later confess to killing the dog because it would not stop barking.

The girl also told police that the "suspect cut her finger with a knife, usually gagged her and that he was going to release her before Christmas," according to the records.

Hoffman's Obsession With Leaves Shows Signs of Mental Illness

Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher said that the hundreds of bags of leaves found in the home were not connected to the murders.

"Knox County has never seen a case like this before. It has to rank there in Ohio history as one of the worst homicide cases," Thatcher said.

Forensic psychologists said that Hoffman's obsession with leaves and trees were indications of mental illness and delusion.

"If trees gave him comfort at all and were familiar at all, that would explain why he would put the bodies in the tree," said Dr. James Alan Fox of Northeastern University who has written five books about serial killers.

Psychologists called the obsession with leaves bizarre and unique from other convicted murderers.

"It certainly suggests that he is likely to be mentally ill, mentally ill as compared to other killers who show up in the news like serial killers or psychopaths," Dr. N.G. Berrill, director of New York Center for Neuropsychology and Forensic Behavioral Science. "Serial killers, from professional point of view, they are not mentally ill. They have character disturbances, but they know what they're doing is wrong. They take too much pleasure, too much gratification to stop."

Berrill said that only Hoffman could explain why he appeared to stockpile leaves.

"It would take talking to him to find out what it means," Berrill said. "[Hoffman's delusions are] very elaborate delusions related to trees, what trees produce, being in and around on trees, putting people in trees."

Hoffman was an unemployed tree cutter. Neighbors said that there were only two trees near his home.

"He couldn't have possibly got that many leaves from that tree so he had to haul leaves from somewhere. I never saw him raking," neighbor Jeannette Columber said.

Neighbor Henderson Butcher described his interactions with Hoffman as friendly.

"He used to play around the trees around there a lot...throw ropes in trees and had like a hammock on there," Butcher said.

Other people said that Henderson would shoot squirrels to eat.

"He was killing the squirrels because he doesn't grocery shop," neighbor Kara Fowler said. "He would actually kill the squirrels and eat them."

Matthew Hoffman's Freezer Contained Only Popsicles and Squirrels

The released documents show that police taped hours of conversations with Hoffman saying little. It was a bad dream that prompted him to confess. Hoffman told an investigator that he'd had a dream about being at a food processing plant.

"Hoffman said he opened a trash bag at the food processing plant and saw cut up body parts and he got a knot in his stomach and it all came back to him," according to the case files.

Hoffman asked an investigator to allow him to write the location of the bodies on a piece of paper and then shoot him in a faked escape attempt.

When police said they wouldn't agree to his terms, he shut up for two more days before telling police where to find he bodies.

The home full of leaves is in foreclosure, according to court records. Wells Fargo Bank initiated the proceedings Jan. 28.

 
 

Knox County killer of 3 says burglary was intent

In confession, he says he treated teen hostage well

By Holly Zachariah and Allison Manning - The Columbus Dispatch

Wednesday February 9, 2011

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Matthew Hoffman chose the house he wanted to burglarize, and then he waited.

Just before he took three lives and changed a teenage girl forever, Hoffman spent the night in the woods across from Tina Herrmann's isolated Knox County home. Bundled in a sleeping bag to ward off the cold of the November night, he watched the split-level house.

He dozed. Sometime after 9 a.m. on Nov. 10, a Wednesday, he saw Herrmann leave. Hoffman sneaked across the road and slipped under the overhead garage door, which wasn't completely closed.

He swears that he went inside only to steal. He says he was excited by just being in someone else's home alone.

But before that day was over, Hoffman, a 30-year-old unemployed ex-con, had killed Herrmann, her 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard, and Herrmann's best friend and neighbor, 41-year-old Stephanie Sprang.

He also had kidnapped a 13-year-old girl, sexually assaulted her and held her hostage until authorities, after days of old-fashioned police work, raided Hoffman's home near downtown Mount Vernon about 8 a.m. the following Sunday and rescued her.

Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher told Hoffman that he wouldn't seek a death sentence if the suspect would tell where he had hidden the bodies of his victims and if he would give a full, written confession.

Hoffman agreed on Nov.18, directing investigators to a 60-foot-tall hollow tree in the Kokosing Wildlife Area near Fredericktown. Inside that tree, detectives found the mutilated bodies of the three, as well as the remains of the family dog.

Hoffman, an avid outdoorsman who was apparently obsessed with trees and leaves, later told authorities that he had used a rig-and-pulley system that he regularly used to climb trees to get to the top of the hollow tree and drop the bodies inside.

On Jan. 6, he pleaded guilty to 10 felonies, including aggravated murder and rape, and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

His four-page, first-person confession and the entire investigative file, all released yesterday, offer excruciating details of what happened in Herrmann's King Beach Drive home and what followed in the days after.

The file doesn't make sense of a seemingly senseless crime, but it does offer the first public peek into the mind of a man who went from burglar to mass murderer in a matter of hours.

Although he coldly recounts gruesome details of the murders, Hoffman seems to have convinced himself that in the four days he held the teenage girl in his Columbus Road home, he was a nice guy.

The Dispatch has previously published the girl's name but is no longer identifying her because she was the victim of a sexual assault.

Hoffman tells of how he let her play Wii video games, how they watched the Iron Man movies - both the first and the second - together, and how he gave her a copy of the novel Treasure Island to pass the time.

He said he cooked hamburgers for her and slept with his arm around her.

He appears to believe that he showed her some compassion.

He promised her that she would be OK, he said - that she would be home playing with her family by Christmas. He showed her the definition of ransom in a dictionary and told her that he was negotiating with her family.

"I would not have hurt her. I could not hurt her," he said in the confession, which he dictated to his defense attorney. "I planned on giving her more and more freedom until she ran away."

He recounts how he bound her hands and feet with both rope and duct tape. When investigators broke through a door of Hoffman's home on Nov. 14 and found the girl, she was alive but bound on a bed made of tree leaves and blankets in a dark and dank corner of the home's basement.

The door to the basement had been barricaded with a sewing cabinet.

Thatcher, the prosecutor, said that Hoffman is just building himself up in his mind and that, at his core, he's nothing more than a calculated criminal with no remorse.

"His perception of himself is self-serving, and he may very well believe he treated her like a houseguest, but she was a kidnap victim," he said.

Larry Maynard, the father of Kody and the teenage girl, has read the confession. He said he doesn't believe most of Hoffman's story about how he cared for the girl.

Maynard said he still has a million questions and no answers.

"Why would he tell us the truth? Why would he even care?" he said. "Even from behind bars, he's still controlling the situation."

Still, Hoffman stands by his story that he didn't mean anyone harm. Herrmann - and Sprang, just minutes later - surprised him after he'd been there only an hour.

He was cornered, he said, so he stabbed them both.

"At this time I was in a total state of shock," he said. "I wandered around the house, slowly coming to the realization of what I had done and how bad it was."

He says he had no plan, that he ran through his choices. Yet he had come armed with a hunting knife - described in police files as a serrated, "jungle primitive" knife bought online.

He was in the middle of what he called "processing" the bodies in the home's bathroom when the children returned from school. They surprised him, too. Hoffman said the girl ran to her room, and he killed Kody just inside the front door.

Using an electrical cord from a fan, he tied up the girl and left her in the kitchen. It appears that she never saw the rest of the house, which was like a scene from a horror movie.

Hoffman told investigators that he left the house in Sprang's Jeep Cherokee, with the bodies and the girl loaded inside.

It seems that Hoffman moved quickly that first night, rigging the pulley equipment - he left the girl alone in his home - and then taking the bodies to the woods. At various times, he used several vehicles - his own, Herrmann's Ford pickup truck and Sprang's Jeep - to move around. He walked from location to location twice, as well, and once rode his bike.

One thing he hadn't counted on, however, was an investigation so soon.

On Thursday morning, Herrmann's boss went by her home and saw the blood. That triggered a full-scale missing-person investigation. The entire community soon swarmed with authorities.

A key event occurred Thursday night when Hoffman went to a bike trail near Kenyon College, where he had left Herrmann's pickup. He intended to take the truck back to Herrmann's house and burn the place down.

But the police were there. They had no reason yet to suspect Hoffman, but a deputy questioned him anyway. He told the deputy he was waiting for his girlfriend to get off work at the nearby Kenyon Inn.

Deputies finally linked everything when they found, while still examining the Herrmann home, a Walmart bag with two tarps and a box of 55-gallon, heavy-duty trash bags.

They went to the store, watched surveillance video and saw the man who had bought the tarps. They saw what he drove, realized that the man the deputy had talked to at the park that night drove the same car, and were pretty sure they had their man.

Footprints outside the Herrmann house led investigators to believe that someone, a woman or girl with a size 7.5 shoe, had left the house alive with an attacker.

Was she still alive?

They knew where Hoffman lived. Now they just had to go get him.

About 8 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14 - four days after the murders - authorities busted in the door of Hoffman's home and found him asleep on a living-room sofa.

Officers searched the barely furnished first floor of the home and found no one else, dead or alive. What they did find, however, was a room with thousands of leaves covering the floor, and walls seemingly insulated with hundreds of plastic shopping bags filled with leaves.

A sewing cabinet blocked what appeared to be a basement door. They moved the cabinet and went down the steps.

There, they found the girl in disheveled clothes on the makeshift bed. Hoffman was arrested, and the girl was reunited with her father later that day.

Maynard said his daughter is back in school and working with therapists to get past this tragedy and loss.

She is strong, he said, and has gotten through this with her faith in God and the love of her family.

Hoffman, meanwhile, is in prison. In his confession, he never asked for forgiveness or said he was sorry: "I did not enter the house to kill those people. I did not know a single one of them. I did not know their names, and I did not know who all lived at the house. ... I did not plan for any of this to happen."

Thatcher, the prosecutor, said he believes Hoffman's story that the home was chosen at random and that it was a burglary gone very, very wrong.

Maynard thinks otherwise: "A thief steals, and a murderer kills. He's just a monster. He's the closest thing to a devil I've ever seen."

 
 

What was in the home (and mind) of Matthew Hoffman?

By Allison Manning and Holly Zachariah - The Columbus Dispatch

Wednesday February 9, 2011

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The first SWAT officer in line burst through the front door of the home as a second one tossed in a flash grenade to surprise, disorient and stun Matthew Hoffman, who was sleeping inside.

Mount Vernon Police detective Craig Feeney and his partner were the first two in.

"We plowed our way through the smoke and saw something on the couch," Feeney said. "We yanked him to the floor and he said, 'What's going on?' I said, 'You tell me.' But he was done talking."

Even though that initial rush through the door took only seconds, something besides Hoffman immediately caught Feeney's eye. The floor of the room to the right of the front door was covered with leaves.

"So much runs through your mind: What if someone is hiding under that pile? Or in this case, I thought, 'Is that where he's hiding the bodies?'"

By then, Hoffman had already killed 32-year-old Tina Herrmann; her 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard; and Herrmann's best friend and neighbor, 41-year-old Stephanie Sprang, in Herrmann's Apple Valley home in Knox County four days earlier, on Nov. 10.

And he had kidnapped a teenage girl from the home and sexually assaulted her.

But these officers at that moment on that Sunday morning didn't yet know for certain who was alive, who was dead or where anyone was.

After they handcuffed Hoffman and took him out of the home, the officers found the girl in the basement, bound on a bed made of leaves.

Then, Feeney and his partner went back to the living room.

They didn't want to disturb any potential evidence, but they had to see what they were dealing with. They poked at the pile with sticks.

"All kinds of things go through your mind," Feeney said. "I've seen a lot of crazy cases, but this guy? Wow. Who has a 14 x 14 tarp in their living room with leaves piled 3feet high?"

But that pile of leaves was just the beginning of what awaited them in the Hoffman house. The detectives also found three floor-to-ceiling rows of bagged leaves hanging on a living-room wall.

They found a bathroom completely insulated by more than 110 bags of leaves attached to the walls. The bags covered the mirror; they surrounded the toilet.

Was it really insulation? An oddball hobby? Or just a maniac's fascination?

Although he knows the investigators did amazing work in those frantic days, Feeney doesn't buy Hoffman's written confession that this triple murder was a burglary gone awry. He joins the children's father, Larry Maynard, and other family members and friends in his doubts.

Receipts that investigators found inside Hoffman's home show he bought a pair of Sure-Grip gloves - most likely the same gloves he left bloodied in the bathroom sink at Herrmann's home - at a local Lowe's on Nov. 4.

He bought duct tape and another pair of gloves on Nov.8. He had ordered the knife online and took it to the house with him, even though he said he was just going to rob the place.

Feeney said he believes Hoffman likely knew he couldn't stay in his home, forever, with what he'd done. Already a convicted arsonist, maybe the leaves had another purpose.

"Were the leaves an accelerant?" Feeney said.

Would he have burned his own house down and fled? Maybe, the detective said.

There were plenty more discoveries, according to the detectives' notes, reports and photographs in the complete case file, which the Knox County prosecutor's office released Monday in response to a public-records request. The freezer in the kitchen held two unskinned squirrels, red popsicles and little else.

Some walls and doorjambs were covered with doodles, the kind a teenage girl would perhaps scratch on a notebook cover. A giant peace sign on the door, stars on the wall, random names written in marker. The leaf-filled bathroom had black doodles scrawled on the white tub, including a jack-o-lantern.

Records show that before the murders, Hoffman's life was a mess. He had no job and was collecting unemployment. His car was being repossessed, and his girlfriend had told police that he'd choked her on Oct. 24. She and her young son moved out then.

If there had been any evidence of a family at the home, she took it with her.

Just as Hoffman didn't have anything to say the morning of his arrest, his attitude didn't change much when authorities got their first crack at questioning him.

In videos of the first marathon interview session at the Knox County sheriff's office, Hoffman sat slumped over, ignoring the questions of the tired detectives.

Then, after about 15 minutes, he raised his cuffed hands and thumped his chest with a fist. He motioned as if breaking something.

"Heart broken?" detective Sgt. Roger Brown asked him. "Because of what happened?"

Hoffman shook his head no.

"Someone broke your heart?" Brown tried again.

Hoffman didn't answer. He didn't say a single word until the tape ran out on the interview four hours later.

In the following days, hundreds of searchers combed rural Knox County looking for the bodies. The three hadn't been seen since Nov. 10, and Hoffman wouldn't talk.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, he opened up to Special Agent Joe Deitz of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation, off-camera and in a single-stall restroom, according to the case files.

Hoffman asked Deitz if he was recording what was said. When the agent said no, Hoffman said he'd had a nightmare the night before, his second in a jail cell where he was on suicide watch. Hoffman dreamed that he was at a food-processing plant, and he opened a trash bag filled with dismembered body parts.

He wanted to tell the detectives what had happened, he told the agent, but on his own terms. He would write down the locations of the bodies for a lawyer. Then Hoffman would escape, and the special agent would shoot and kill him. Only after he was dead could the lawyer say where the bodies were.

Hoffmann wanted to control the release of information.

"Hoffman said he could not live with what he had done and that if this could not be agreed to, then he would kill himself in jail," the agent wrote in his report.

"Hoffman said he did not want to be injected with Thorazine (a drug used to treat schizophrenia) the rest of his life in prison and wanted to end his life."

He called himself a monster.

Deitz wouldn't go along with the plan, and Hoffman later said he made up the story and didn't know where the bodies were.

But two days later, Hoffman must have decided he wanted to live: He pointed detectives to a 60-foot-tall hollow tree in the Kokosing Wildlife Area, near Fredericktown. He agreed to dictate a detailed confession to his attorneys and to plead guilty to all 10 felony counts that prosecutors would bring against him. Prosecutors took the death penalty off the table. On Jan. 6, Hoffman was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

In his confession, also released this week, Hoffman says he panicked when the women and children surprised him during a burglary. He says he wanted to return and burn the house down after he robbed it.

He had done as much when he was 19 and living away from home for the first time in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Working for a plumbing company at the time, he broke into a condo where he had been working and robbed it.

After he was caught, Hoffman told detectives in Colorado that he obsessed over the fingerprints he left behind, so he returned, dumped 10 gallons of gasoline at the building and set the place ablaze.

The 16 people living in the building escaped unharmed, but not before the fire caused $2 million in damage.

"It was quite calculated. It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing," said Capt. Bob DelValle, who investigated the crime for the Steamboat Springs Police Department

Hoffman admitted what he'd done and spent six years in prison before returning to Ohio in 2007. That punishment didn't dissuade Hoffman from resorting to fire. It was the same solution he came up with for the crime scene at Herrmann's home on King Beach Drive.

But his plan was foiled.

A deputy spotted Hoffman loitering near Herrmann's abandoned truck, where he had put the cans of gasoline. The deputy didn't yet know that Hoffman would become a suspect in the triple-murder case, but he did ask him what he was doing there.

Hoffman said he was waiting for his girlfriend to get off work. The deputy asked for the girl's name. Hoffman said he didn't know her last name because they'd just started dating. He gave the deputy a first name: the same as the terrified girl he had left bound in his home, shivering on a bed made of leaves.

 
 

Excerpts from Matthew Hoffman's confession

Given on Nov. 19, 2010

The Columbus Dispatch

February 8, 2011

I parked my car in Howard and walked from there to the house. I got to the woods across the street from the house a little after midnight. I slept across the street from the house that night in a sleeping bag. I woke up at daylight. There were two vehicles parked at the house during the night, and I saw that the gray car had left. I went back to sleep until around nine on Wednesday morning. I stayed there until a woman left in a pickup truck. This meant there were no vehicles at the house. I walked across the street and tried to enter the front door, but it was locked. I then went in through the garage door. The garage door was not closed all the way so I slid under it into the garage. I kicked the door into the house from the garage. By this time it was approximately 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

I looked around the house to make sure no one was there. Even if I did not take anything, there was a certain amount of excitement in being in someone else's home without them being there. I was looking for anything of value that could be carried out easily, i.e. money, jewelry, etc. I did not find anything of any real value. I was getting ready to leave as I had been there approximately an hour, but someone pulled into the driveway. I was back in the bedrooms when she entered the house and was unable to exit without breaking a window and trying to jump out. I had brought my knife for a certain amount of intimidation in case I ran inot someone and needed to make an escape.

When she made her way back into the bedrooms I confronted her and made her get onto the bed lying face down. I believe that we were in her bedroom. I had a blackjack, I was going to try to knock her out. I hit her a couple of times in the head, but this would not knock her out. It was not doing the job, and I started panicking. The next thing that I knew her friend came into the bedroom. I have no idea when she got there, what she was doing there, and how she gained access. The other woman yelled at me, there were now two to deal with and I did not know what to do.

I grabbed the knife that I had put down on the nightstand and stabbed the woman on the bed, through her back, twice. I chased the other woman down (Stephanie) and stabbed her a couple times in the chest. Instead of running out of the house, she had run into another bedroom. I believe this bedroom was for a girl due to the contents of the room. I then went back to the other bedroom where the first woman was located and stabbed her a couple more times. I could tell that both women were now dead.

At this time I was in a total state of shock. I wandered around the house slowly coming to the realization of what I had done and how bad it was. During this time I killed the dog because it would not stop barking. After a while I came to the conclusion that I was going dispose of the bodies and burn the house down. At first I thought about loading the bodies into the vehicle, driving it into Foundation Park Pond, I would swim away as the vehicles sank, but I felt that it was too cold and I might not be able to make it out of the water. I decided to process the bodies and dispose of them inside of a tree that I knew was hollow. I took the bodies into the bathroom and begin processing the bodies to dispose of them. I used garbage bags from within the house and placed the bodies inside.

Once I had finished processing the bodies, I moved the Jeep into the garage to load up the bodies. I still had a couple of bags to load into the Jeep when I heard the children come into the house. ... I confronted the children, and the girl instantly ran to a bedroom. I stabbed the boy in the chest a couple times. I ran into the bedroom after the girl to make sure she was not on the phone for help. ... I saw the girl was not on the phone, and I could not bring myself to kill her.

*****

I did not enter the house to kill those people. I did not know a single one of them. I did not know their names, and I did not know who all lived at the house. I chose the house to break into because there was not any close neighbors, and I noticed the garage door was ajar. I chose the house the day before. I did not plan for any of this to happen. I did not want to kill anyone, and I tried to just knock the first woman out so that I would be able to escape. This was not working, a second woman showed up, and things quickly spiraled out of control. They kept escalating and I was panicking. I only chose to process the bodies to make their disposal easier.

 
 

Knox County man pleads guilty in dismemberment slayings

Matthew Hoffman sentenced to life in prison

By Allison Manning - The Columbus Dispatch

January 6, 2011

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Matthew Hoffman appeared emotionless this morning as he answered "yes" to acknowledge his guilty pleas in the horrific dismemberment slayings of a Knox County woman, her son and a family friend.

Hoffman pleaded guilty before a courtroom packed with relatives and friends of the victims and was sentenced by Knox County Common Pleas Court Judge Otho Eyster to concurrent terms of life in prison with no chance of parole.

Hoffman fatally stabbed Tina Herrmann, 32; her son Kody Maynard, 11; and family friend Stephanie Sprang, 41, in Herrmann's home in Apple Valley on Nov. 10 and then cut up their bodies.

Hoffman, 30, an unemployed tree trimmer, then scaled a tall beech tree in a wildlife area northwest of Mount Vernon and deposited garbage bags containing the dismembered remains of the victims in the hollow of the tree.

The remains were located with Hoffmann's assistance on Nov. 18, eight days after the victims - and a 13-year-old girl - disappeared, triggering a massive search of the countryside by officials and citizen volunteers.

Sprang's sister, Sherry Baxter, said in the courtroom that the family agreed with authorities to take a potential death penalty for Hoffman off the table in exchange for information on where the bodies could be found.

The 13-year-old girl was found bound and gagged, but alive, in the basement of Hoffman's home near downtown Mount Vernon on Nov. 14 when authorities stormed the house. Hoffman was charged with raping the girl.

In a statement read by Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher, the girl said: "This has changed my whole life and my family's life, too." In the statement, the teen related memories of the victims and said she's no longer scared of Hoffman.

"This is so sickening, Matthew, to know you even had the guts to do this to a family," she said in the statement.

Hoffman, who was being held in lieu of a $1 million cash bond, was indicted on Monday by a Knox County grand jury on charges that include three counts of aggravated murder, rape and aggravated burglary.

Thatcher said that the indictment did not contain death-penalty specifications in accordance with the wishes of the victims' families.

In addition to the murder charges, Hoffman was charged with aggravated burglary, rape, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

He received nine years each for his guilty pleas to burglary, kidnapping and rape, four years for tampering with evidence and 11 months for abuse of a corpse. The sentences will run concurrent with the life sentences for murder.

Hoffman appeared in court in blue scrubs with a dark prison jacket labeled "inmate worker." His hair was messy and he was unshaven.

"The family deserves to know this a random burglary that went terribly, terribly wrong," Bruce Malek, Hoffman's public defender, said following sentencing. Hoffman did not specifically target those he killed, Malek said. Prosecutor Thatcher agreed with Malek's assessment.

The break in the case that led to the discovery of the girl in Hoffman's home was a Walmart bag containing a tarp and trash bags that the killer left behind in Herrmann's home, Thatcher said after sentencing.

Using the bar code from the items at the store, investigators were able to locate the transaction involving their purchase and then match it to surveillance video of the man who bought the items. Video showed him driving away in a Toyota Yaris.

Investigators then ran a database search for all Yaris vehicles in the area, with Hoffman's name appearing among those driving the model. Since a deputy had spoken to him in the area where Herrmann's stolen pickup truck was found, he immediately became a prime suspect.

Authorities then obtained a search warrant, entered Hoffman's home, arrested him and freed the girl.

"For whatever reason, he chose to spare (the girl) and thank God he did," Thatcher said. Hoffman planned to set fire to the house where he stabbed and dismembered the victims, but did not go through with his plan, Thatcher said.

The prosecutor said authorities began negotiating with Hoffman and his lawyers on Nov. 17 on a potential deal. He agreed to disclose where the bodies were hidden and to plead guilty without a trial if he did not face the death penalty.

Family members of the victims agreed to the deal the next day and the bodies were found hidden in the hollow tree. Sheriff David Barber said they never would have been discovered without Hoffman's directions.

 
 

Ohio kidnapping suspect Matthew Hoffman was convicted of Steamboat Springs arson

By Doug Whiteman - The Associated Press

November 15, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, OHIO An Ohio man charged with kidnapping a 13-year-old girl, who was found bound and gagged in his basement, served a Colorado prison term for arson he committed in Steamboat Springs.

Matthew J. Hoffman, 30, suspected in the abduction of teenager Sarah Maynard, was released from the Colorado Department of Corrections in January of 2007.

Hoffman was convicted in 2001 of arson, burglary, assault and motor vehicle theft in Routt County, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.

He was released from Colorado prison and paroled to Ohio, said Katherine Sanguinetti, a corrections department spokeswoman. Hoffman completed his Colorado term last month.

"I'm comfortable that it's the same guy," said Capt. George Hartz of the Mount Vernon, Ohio, Police Department.

In August of 2000 Hoffman, then 20, set fire to a townhome in Steamboat Springs to cover up a burglary and auto theft, according to a Steamboat Pilot story.

No one was killed, but the fire spread to adjoining units, causing about $2 million in damages. He was found guilty and sentenced to an eight year term.

Scott Barnes, a plumbing contractor who had hired Hoffman in Steamboat 10 years ago, recalled the kidnapping suspect as a "quiet" young man.

"He was a little on the strange side," Barnes said.

Barnes said Hoffman had lived in a transient hotel in Steamboat. "He was a follower, and did not have a strong personality," Barnes said. "For a 20-year-old that's unusual, especially to an employer who hires a lot of kids."

Hoffman worked for Barnes for about three months, and had stopped showing up for work about a week or two before the fire. "I was disappointed when he took that route," Barnes said.

This morning in Ohio, police cruisers blocked off a park near Hoffman's home. The whereabouts of Maynard's mother, brother and another woman remained a mystery.

Ten miles from home, Sarah Maynard was found alive on Sunday, four days after disappearing with her family. Hoffman, who lived in the house in this central Ohio city where she was found, was arrested the same day, and authorities hope he'll provide information leading to the others, although it's unclear whether he knew either of the missing women, Knox County Sheriff David Barber said.

"We were hopeful that we would find more than one" of the missing people in Hoffman's house, Barber said. "Our information was definite that it was most likely that Sarah was going to be in that house." Barber did not say what led investigators to the two-story tan-sided house.

Hoffman has been charged with kidnapping. Barber said more charges are expected against Hoffman, who lives at the home about 40 miles north of Columbus.

Authorities have said an "unusual" amount of blood was found at the home where Sarah lived with her 10-year-old brother, Kody, and her mother, 32-year-old Tina Herrmann, and they were testing it Monday.

On Monday morning, Mount Vernon police cruisers blocked off Foundation Park, a public park with a lake a few blocks from Hoffman's home, because an officer patrolling overnight had found items potentially related to the investigation, police Capt. George Hartz said. He would not say what was found, but said the park would remain closed until police had determined whether it should considered a crime scene.

Neighbors had said Hoffman frequented the park, which was once a gravel quarry and now has ponds where people fish. It was difficult Monday to see any police activity through the thick trees bordering the park.

Barber was scheduled to brief reporters Monday afternoon. His office said no updated information would be released until that time.

Hoffman was being held in the county jail, where personnel would not comment on whether he had an attorney. A bond hearing was expected to be held Monday.

Barber said the girl was hospitalized in good condition, but he would give no details.

Herrmann, her children, and Herrmann's 41-year-old friend, Stephanie Sprang, disappeared Wednesday from Herrmann's home in nearby Howard. Barber said DNA testing on blood found in that house was expected to begin Monday.

Authorities believe the girl had been "under the control" of Hoffman since Wednesday, when she and her brother last attended school, the sheriff said. He did not know if Hoffman was connected to either Herrmann or Sprang, but said he is not the ex-boyfriend of either woman.

"At this time, whether he's connected to the family or whether he connected himself to the family ... a lot of that remains to be seen as the investigation continues," Barber said.

Authorities had talked to the girl but would not release any details because the investigation is ongoing, Barber said.

Authorities blocked off about a half block on either side of the home as they investigated early Sunday afternoon, keeping people from entering or leaving about a half dozen homes. But by late Sunday afternoon, the only sign of investigative activity was red and white evidence tape sealing the front door of the home.

The house with green shutters and front door and a large television antenna on the roof sits in a lower-middle-income neighborhood with two bars within a block. Holly grows through the weathered slats of the porch. A sheet covered one window, and blinds were pulled down on the rest.

Dawna Davis, 35, who lives next door to Hoffman, said she told her children to stay indoors when he was out. She said he moved in alone about a year ago and that a girlfriend lived with him temporarily with her son until about a month ago.

"He would sit and listen to us up in a tree. He had a hammock and he would sit there and listen to us," she said. "He was just different. He was very different." Davis said Hoffman did tree trimming work and had built a fire Wednesday night in his backyard, where there was a mound of ashes Sunday with tree parts on it. She said he walked to Foundation Park almost every day and was a "nature person" who collected leaves.

Attempts to reach relatives of Hoffman and of Sarah were unsuccessful Sunday.

Herrmann was reported missing Wednesday when she did not show up for work at a local Dairy Queen. Barber has said blood indicating an injury had been found in her home, where Sprang's vehicle was in the driveway.

Herrmann's pickup truck had been found Thursday night near the Kenyon College campus, leading to a lockdown at the school.

Denver Post writer Kieran Nicholson and Associated Press writer Jeannie Nuss contributed to this report.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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