In a world that is full of fictional evil, real-life monsters do exist. On Thursday, law authorities in central Ohio confirmed that the bodies of three missing persons were found, all three victims of a gruesome and senseless murder.
In what could be described as a scene taken straight from the movie, “Silence of the Lambs”, Knox County Sheriff David Barber verified that the bodies of a mother, her young son and a family friend who disappeared more than a week ago, were found in garbage bags, stuffed inside a hollow tree about 20 miles northwest of the murdered mother’s home in Howard, Ohio. Although not confirmed by authorities, it is believed that all three bodies were dismembered.
“The tragedy today is just devastating,” said Knox County prosecutor John Thatcher. “The results aren’t what we wanted them to be.”
Tina Herrmann, 32, her 10-year-old son, Kody Maynard, and Herrman’s friend, 41-year-old Stephanie Sprang were reported missing November 10th after Tina Herrmann failed to show up for work at a local Dairy Queen. A day later, a deputy found what authorities called an unusual amount of blood inside her home. Additionally, her pickup truck was found miles away near the campus of Kenyon College.
The murdered mother’s 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Maynard, who was originally listed among the missing, was found Saturday by a police SWAT team, tied and gagged in the basement of the home of Matthew Hoffman, a 30-year-old unemployed tree trimmer who spent six years in a Colorado prison for arson and burglary. Currently, he is being held and charged with kidnapping the teenaged girl. Sheriff Barber says Hoffman, gave information through his lawyer that led to the discovery of the bodies.
Investigators would not go into detail about the horrors that 13-year-old Sarah experienced, but have said that she is doing well, considering the circumstances of her ordeal.
The victim’s remains were found in a wildlife preserve in Fredericktown, about a 15-mile drive from Hoffman’s home and about a 20-mile drive from the Herrmann home.
On Thursday at the Herrman home, mourners left three purple, star-shaped helium balloons and two bouquets of flowers resting against a tree. County Coroner Jennifer Ogle said the victim’s bodies were taken to the coroner’s office in neighboring Licking County and that results of the murder would be released from her office as early as Saturday afternoon.
At the Columbus, Ohio home of the Maynard children’s father, four stout men stoically stood in the yard and asked reporters to respect the privacy of the grieving parent. At the home of Stephanie Sprang, a group of family supporters gathered on the front porch to stand as a barrier between a heartbroken family and the media.
Sheriff Barber declined to speculate on a motive for the murders. It’s still uncertain how well Hoffman knew his victims, however, the sheriff suggested that the defendant had been watching them from afar. Hoffman lived approximately 10 miles from Herrmann’s home – a split-level house surrounded by a big yard, trees and two country roads – however, his mother and stepfather resided in a home less than a mile away from the Herrman home.
Paul Manter, 58, also lives near Herrmann and said Hoffman’s mother and stepfather said they “can’t believe that their son did this.” Manter attends the same church as the couple and said they had wanted to help with the searching but he advised against it.
“I wouldn’t have suspected that he would do something like this,” said Manter, who attended a vigil for the victims on Thursday night at a neighborhood beach.
This vigil was planned before the bodies were discovered. On the night of the vigil, more than 100 people circled around a bonfire and sang hymns, and lit candles.
“It gives us closure, but sad closure. You always want someone to come home,” Manter said.
Neighbors said Hoffman often collected leaves on walks through the park, which has three lakes where people often fished. One neighbor said Hoffman would sit up in a tree and listen to people as they walked by.
As families mourn the senseless murder of three innocent people, there is relief that 13-year-old Sarah Maynard survived the carnage. Only time and a lot of out pouring of love and patience from family and friends will determine if Sarah will ever be able to regain any semblance of a normal life.
Meanwhile, Knox County prosecutors are currently drafting additional charges against a real-life monster named Matthew Hoffman who must answer questions regarding his motive behind committing the grisly murders of three innocent people and for the kidnapping and psychological / physical torture of a teenage girl who is now forced to cope with the violent loss of her mother, her brother and a lifetime of nightmares.
As for Matthew Hoffman, his day of judgment and sentencing will come from a jury and a judge that are obligated to make their decision based on fairness and civility, courtesies that Hoffman did not extend to his four victims.
As always Louisianans, the New Orleans Examiner is interested in what you think. At the end of the horror movie, the monster is nearly always destroyed, would justice be served if Matthew Hoffman is sentenced to death? Or should he become a ward of Ohio state prisons for the rest of his life allowing “prison justice” to seal his fate? Inquiring minds want to know. Sound off.
Until next time Louisianans, Good Day, God Bless and Good Fishing.