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Grim end to Ohio mystery: 3 bodies in hollow tree

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — An unemployed tree-trimmer arrested after a teenage girl was found bound and gagged in his basement pointed the way Thursday to the bodies of her brother, mother and another woman, stuffed into garbage bags and hidden in a hollow tree.

The three victims and the rescued 13-year-old disappeared more than a week ago from a blood-spattered home. Authorities said all three were killed there, though they did not say how, and that the tree-trimmer, Matthew Hoffman, gave investigators information through his attorneys that led them to the bodies in woods in central Ohio.

"The tragedy today is just devastating," said Knox County prosecutor John Thatcher. "The results aren't what we wanted them to be."

Knox County Sheriff David Barber said part of the tree had to be cut away to remove the remains.

"The tree was hollow to a point," the sheriff said, adding it would be speculation to understand how the remains were put into the tree.

Hoffman, an ex-convict who spent six years in a Colorado prison on arson and other charges, remained jailed on charges of kidnapping the girl, Sarah Maynard, and is the only suspect in the killings, Barber said.

The 30-year-old has appeared in court but has not entered a plea. Knox County Public Defender Bruce Malek, who is representing Hoffman, said Thursday that he could not comment.

Sarah, her mother, Tina Herrmann, her 11-year-old brother, Kody Maynard, and family friend Stephanie Sprang were reported missing after Herrmann failed to show up for work at a local Dairy Queen on Nov. 10.

A day later, a deputy found what authorities called an unusual amount of blood inside her home, and her pickup was found near the campus of Kenyon College. Hoffman was questioned that same day — Barber said police found him sitting in his car near a bike trail near where the pickup was found.

A SWAT team found Sarah over the weekend in the basement of Hoffman's home in Mount Vernon, about 40 miles northeast of Columbus. Investigators would not discuss details of her ordeal but have said she is doing well, considering the circumstances.

Grim end to Ohio mystery: 3 bodies in hollow tree 11/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:22pm]

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