Matthew Hoffman, Murderer with Dendrophilia

Kody Maynard, Tina Herrman, & Stephanie Sprang

Tina Herrmann, 32, Stephanie Sprang, 41, and Kody Maynard, Tina’s eleven-year-old son, were murdered and dismembered by Michael Hoffman on November 10, 2010. Hoffman, a dendrophilic, then abducted Tina’s daughter Sarah Maynard, 13, and sexually assaulted her. Investigators found the missing teen alive after being held captive on a bed of leaves and blankets in Hoffman’s basement for five days.

Tina Herrmann

Tina Hermann was the mother of 2 children, Sarah and Kody. She had shared physical custody with her ex-husband, Larry, until he moved from the area due to work. The divorce was amicable, and the two remained friends. Larry remarried and had a son. He would later describe Tina as a truly great person who loved life.

Tina and her two children lived with her boyfriend, Greg. She became best friends with neighbor Stephanie Sprang; the two women were inseparable. Stephanie was a mother of 3. Tina and Greg were in the middle of an amicable split when the murders occurred. Tina had been looking for another place in that same neighborhood since she loved it so much. Tina had been working at the local Dairy Queen. According to news sources, she loved her co-workers and her job.

Matthew Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman, 30, grew up central Ohio. Following his graduation from the Knox County Career Center in 2000, Hoffman moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he found work as a Plumber’s Helper. Hoffman was arrested for arson after he set fire to a client’s vacation condo to hide the fact that he had been staying there without the owner’s knowledge or consent. A judge sentenced Hoffman to 8 years in prison, which he served 6 years of before being released due to good behavior. After his release, he returned to Ohio, where he bought a home in the Mount Vernon area in 2009. His girlfriend and her young son moved into his home. Her son often played with neighborhood kids. Hoffman picked up the neighbor’s daughter from school. The couple settled well within the community; until the end of summer 2010, when things took a turn.

Matthew Hoffman Mugshot

Hoffman’s demeanor began to change. He became paranoid and irritable. His girlfriend and her young son moved out of the house. He lost his part-time job as a tree-trimmer at Fast Eddy’s Lawn Care due to poor job performance and lying on his job application about his felony conviction in Colorado.

Hoffman disconnected the power to his house. He started catching squirrels to eat and would sit in his backyard tree for hours, watching the neighborhood. Neighbors stopped letting their children play outside if they saw Hoffman outside because he made them feel so uncomfortable.

His ex-girlfriend had returned to pick up the last of her things. They had a heated argument in which he choked her. She filed a police report, but then withdrew it. Two weeks later, he started to plan a robbery. Hoffman stated later he had chosen Tina Hermann’s house because her garage door didn’t close properly, and the house was in such a private area.

The Crime

On the night of Nov 9, 2010, Matthew spent the night in woods across from Tina’s home. He had decided that it was the perfect home to burglarize because of the broken garage door. Greg had left the home at around 3:00 a.m. to go to his job at the Target Distribution Center. He hadn’t planned on returning for a few days because he had made plans to stay at a friend’s house and go golfing with them the next day.

Tina Hoffman's Residence

Mid-morning, after everyone had left, Hoffman entered the Tina’s home and spent the next couple of hours going through the family’s belongings. Around mid-afternoon, Tina and Stephanie returned to the house. When he heard them coming in, he hid in the back bedroom. When Tina entered the bedroom, Hoffman attacked her by hitting her in the head repeatedly, hoping to knock her unconscious. Hoffman was not able to render Tina unconscious, so he stabbed her two times in the back. Stephanie entered the home, then proceeded to the bedroom where she encountered Hoffman. Hoffman stated in his police interview, he chased Stephanie and stabbed her in the chest. He then stabbed the dog, killing it because it wouldn’t stop barking. Hoffman later stated that he was panicked and did not know what to do. He ultimately decided to move all three bodies to the bathroom and dismembered them.

The children arrive home

Later that afternoon, the children came home from school. As soon as they entered the house, Hoffman charged at them. Kody attempted to escape out of the front door, but Hoffman stabbed the eleven-year-old in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Sarah ran to her bedroom, where she attempted to hide. Hoffman found her, tied her up, put a pillowcase over her head, and took her to the kitchen. Sarah stated in her police interview that for several hours, she listened to Hoffman and the strange sounds coming from the bathroom.

While Sarah lay bound on the kitchen floor, Hoffman continued to dismember the bodies of Tina, Stephanie, Kody, and the family dog. Many hours later, Hoffman placed Sarah and trash bags in Stephanie’s Jeep, which had been parked in the garage.

Sarah Maynard
Kidnapping

Hoffman drove to a remote area in Fredricktown, where he used a pulley system that he had rigged up to place the trash bags into a 60-foot hollow tree. He then drove Sarah to his home and place her in his bathroom. Later, she would describe the room as being stacked from floor to ceiling with bags full of leaves. In the small area not covered by bags, there were small doodles Hoffman had made on the walls. He later would move her to his basement, where he left her bound and gagged on a pallet made of leaves and blankets.

Bathroom in Hoffmann's house

All Four Reported Missing

By the next morning, Stephanie and Tina were both reported missing, and both of Tina’s children were reported as not being in school. During the moments that the police were connecting those facts together, Tina’s boss went to Tina’s home. She noticed that Tina’s pickup was gone and noticed in looking through the windows that something was not right. She broke a window in the back of the house, made entry, and discovered an excessive amount of blood and blood splatter throughout the house. Police were immediately called.

Hoffman's Residence Source: Jay Laprete

The Scene

Police found blood in nearly every room of the home. There were large saturations in the front room, the back bedroom, and Sarah’s bedroom. Also present were drag marks leading from the hallway to the bathroom. Blood was found on almost every surface in the bathroom, including the shower/tub. The ring in the bathtub suggested that blood depth had been roughly around 2 inches. Investigators also found patches of oil and bleach in different spots of the house, as if someone had tried cleaning up but had given up on the task. There were bloody footprints throughout the home, and a pair of gloves and a bottle of bleach found in the bathroom.

Stephanie’s Jeep was found in the garage with different types of weeds stuck in the grill and blood on the inside of the Jeep. Investigators also found smaller-sized bloody boot prints in the garage, made from an ‘Airwalk’ boot. Investigators found the corresponding shoebox in Sarah’s bedroom closet. This led investigators to believe that Sarah might still be alive.

Matthew Hoffman's Living Room
Matthew Hoffman's Living Room

Investigators had also discovered a Walmart shopping bag in the garage with a receipt for tarps and black trash bags. They contacted Walmart and requested video footage. Investigators discovered a man, dressed in a camouflage shirt. Investigators would later learn that he strongly resembled the same man that other officers had encountered near Kenyon College. Surveillance cameras caught him leaving Walmart in a silver-colored Toyota Yarris.

The Manhunt

While the crime scene was being processed, police immediately began a manhunt looking for the missing family while searching for Tina’s missing pickup truck. Officers found the vehicle parked near Kenyon College. They noted that there were 2 empty gas cans in the bed of the truck. Officers also noted that a man in a Toyota Yarris was parked near the house. They questioned the man who said that he was there waiting for his girlfriend, Sarah, but he couldn’t tell investigators her last name as they had just begun dating. Police let him go but made note of the encounter. This man turned out to be Hoffman.

Basement where Sarah was found

Investigators later learned that Hoffman came back to the house so he could burn in down to hide the evidence. While driving Tina’s pickup, it broke down with transmission issues. He had walked a good distance back to his home, where he burned his clothes and shoes in a bonfire. Hoffman had then taken a nap. He had just returned to Tina’s pickup in his Toyota Yarris to pick up the gas cans when police had encountered him. He had planned to return to the house to burn it down.

The Apprehension

According to news sources, investigators quickly linked the man from the Walmart surveillance video to the man police had encountered near Tina’s pickup. They searched for all Toyota Yarris owners in the community. After quickly narrowing down the potential suspects, investigators noticed that the shirt Hoffman was wearing in the image from the Walmart video was the same shirt he was wearing in his driver’s license photo.

SWAT officers quickly mobilized and executed a no-knock warrant at Hoffman’s house. They sent flashbangs into the home before making entry. Police found Hoffman napping on his couch and took him into custody. In the basement, investigators found Sarah alive and bound in the basement on the makeshift pallet. Investigators noted many bags of leaves attached to different walls throughout Hoffman’s house. This type of behavior suggested that Hoffman was a Dendrophiliac. Dendrophilia is defined as love or sexual attraction to leaves and trees. There was a 3-foot-pile of loose leaves in the corner of his living room. They also found strange doodle drawings on the walls in the kitchen.

Doodles in Kitchen

The Investigation

During their investigation, police learned that Hoffman had made several purchases over the days leading up to the murders. Hoffman’s attorney, Bruce Malek, would state the “murders were just random and a result of a burglary gone bad”. Prosecutors theorized a burglar would not have waited around for any length of time. They would have taken what they could and left as fast as they could.

After several days in custody, Hoffman finally told police where to find the missing victims. According to news sources, he had made a special request to not damage the tree where they were located because he considered the tree sacred. Investigators found the remains in garbage bags, inside a 60-foot hollowed-out tree in a nature preserve off of Yankee Street near Fredricktown, Knox County, Ohio. In exchange for the information, Hoffman requested that prosecutors not seek the death penalty.

Tree where remains where found

The Aftermath

In a detailed confession to his attorneys, Matthew Hoffman plead guilty on January 6, 2011, to the murders of Stephanie Sprang, Tina Herrmann; Tina’s son Kody Maynard; and the abduction and rape of Sarah. Hoffman was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 10 separate felony charges.

In order to help Sarah and the remaining members of Stephanie’s family, the local Dairy Queen organized a fundraiser and gave the proceeds to them.

 

Sarah Maynard moved to her father’s home. She went on later to write a book about her experience called The Girl in the Leaves.

 

Following the proceedings, the hollowed-out tree was removed due to safety concerns

One Comment

  • Marilyn

    I don’t believe a monster like this should be able to get life in prison with no parole. I think laws should be changed if a person takes anothers life in a manner like this and found quilty. They should be put to death right away after all he didn’t care for those people. They will never eat, laugh, cry, see the sun, see snow, have fun, have family and more. This monster didn’t have to kill, dismembered, kidnapp, rape and these individuals. He knew if he made the deal telling where their cut up body’s was he would stay alive. The state should have said if you don’t tell us we will do you the same way, but you will be alive.

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