Matthew Hoffman, killer who hid bodies in hollowed-out tree, details crime in chilling confession
By Michael Sheridan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, February 8th 2011, 11:06 AM
He claimed he wasn't looking to hurt anyone.
Yet Matthew Hoffman's planned burglary in November quickly became a twisted nightmare, during which the Ohio man killed two women and an 11-year-old boy, then hid their bodies in a hollowed-out tree.
The sicko also kidnapped a 13-year-old girl and sexually assaulted her for several days in his leaf-lined basement.
The details of the crime, for which Hoffman is spending the rest of his life in jail, emerged with the release of his lengthy confession on Monday. Excerpts were published in the Columbus Dispatch the next day.
"I did not enter the house to kill those people," he wrote in a four-page confession offered days after the crime to avoid the death penalty. "I did not know a single one of them."
The 30-year-old's brutal crime began shortly before midnight on Nov. 9, 2010. He walked to the home of Tina Herrmann, who lived there with her two young children.
"I slept across the street from the house that night in a sleeping bag," Hoffman said in the confession. "I woke up at daylight."
The two vehicles that had been parked outside the house the night before were gone, so he slipped in through the garage door, which was ajar.
"There was a certain amount of excitement in being in someone else's home without them being there," he said. "I was looking for anything of value that could be carried out easily."
After about an hour, Hoffman said, he found nothing worth stealing, and was about to leave when Herrmann returned home. He hid in a bedroom, and claimed to be unable to escape without jumping out a window.
Armed with a blackjack and a knife, which he had brought "for a certain amount of intimidation," he confronted Herrmann.
The two fought. Hoffmann knocked the 32-year-old woman to the bed, facedown.
"I hit her a couple of times in the head [with the blackjack], but this would not knock her out," he said. "It was not doing the job, and I started panicking."
That is when he claimed Herrmann's friend Stephanie Sprang arrived.
"I have no idea when she got there, what she was doing there, and how she gained access," Hoffman said. "The other woman yelled at me, there were now two to deal with, and I did not know what to do."
The ex-con grabbed his knife and "stabbed the woman on the bed, through her back, twice."
Sprang ran into another room. Hoffman found her and stabbed the 41-year-old several times in the chest. He went back to Herrmann and stabbed her several more times.
"I could tell that both women were now dead," he said in his confession.
Describing himself as being in a "state of shock," he killed the family's dog for barking and tried to decide what his next steps would be. He considered several options, including burning the house down with the bodies inside or disposing of them in a nearby pond.
Then the children returned home from school.
"I confronted the children, and the girl instantly ran to a bedroom," he said. "I stabbed [11-year-old Kody Maynard] in the chest a couple times."
But when he was face-to-face with the girl, he didn't stab the 13-year-old. (Although her name was released to the public when she was missing, we are withholding her name because she is the victim of sexual abuse.)
"I could not bring myself to kill her," he said.
Instead, Hoffman took her back to his home near downtown Mount Vernon. He held her hostage there for nearly four days. During that time he sexually assaulted her, kept her hands and feet bound with duct tape, and forced her to sleep on a bed of leaves.
"I would not have hurt her. I could not hurt her," he said in his confession.
The basement itself, the Columbus Dispatch reported, was covered with leaves held to the walls with plastic bags, reflecting Hoffman’s obsession with nature.
The man drew the attention of police the day after the murders when he returned to Herrmann's home to burn it down. Authorities were already at the house, having been alerted to a crime there by a neighbor.
Items found in Herrmann's home led them to surveillance video at a Walmart of Hoffman buying trash bags and tarps. On a Sunday morning, four days after the murders, police stormed Hoffman's home and found the young girl.
Hoffman later showed police where he had hidden the bodies, along with the family dog. Using a rig-and-pulley system, the Dispatch reported, he concealed them in a 60-foot tree in the Kokosing Wildlife Area near Fredericktown.
"I did not plan for any of this to happen," Hoffman insisted in his confession -- but no one seems to believe him.
"He's just a monster," Larry Maynard, father of the two children, told the Dispatch.
Photos : 1. Matthew Hoffman confers with his attorney during his arraignment in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in January (LaPrete/AP)
2. The three victims (left to right ) : Tina Herrman, Kody Maynard and Stephanie Sprang