Missing Girl Found Safe; Man In Custody


A 13-year-old who was missing since Wednesday was found safe inside the basement of a home on Sunday morning.

Sarah Maynard was bound and gagged when authorities entered the house, located at 49 Columbus Rd., at about 8 a.m., Knox County Sheriff David Barber said.

Matthew J. Hoffman was taken into custody inside the home and was charged with one count of kidnapping.  Additional charges were expected to be filed, Barber said.

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"We believe (Maynard) was taken sometime on Wednesday and (Hoffman) has had control of ever since," Barber said.

Maynard, her younger brother Kody, 11; their mother, Tina Herrmann, 32; and a family friend, Stephanie Sprang, 41, have been missing since Wednesday.

Barber said that he believes Hoffman, 30, abducted Sarah Maynard.

"It's obvious that (Hoffman) found his way to her and to their home," Barber said.

Barber would not say how authorities learned that the girl was inside Hoffman's home.

Hoffman's neighbors said that they heard a loud noise at about 8 a.m. at the time law enforcement entered his home.

"We were hopeful that we would find more than one (person), but our information was most definitely that Sarah was going to be in that house," Barber said.

Investigators have not given up hope that the other three are still alive, 10TV's Jason Frazer reported.  On Sunday, dozens of people searched nearby Foundation Park for anything that could lead them to the three missing people.

"This doesn't happen in Mount Vernon," said Ronnetta Shults, who assisted in searching the park.

Maynard was taken to Knox Community Hospital for evaluation.  She was expected to be OK, 10TV News reported.

Hoffman also has a home on Apple Valley Drive in nearby Howard, Ohio, the same street where the Maynard children disappeared with Herrmann and Sprang.

Court records showed that Hoffman was convicted of setting fire to a Steamboat Springs, Colo., condominium complex, causing $2 million in damage.  Investigators said that in 2000, he used 10 gallons of gasoline to commit the arson.

Hoffman admitted the arson to cover up a burglary that he committed there, according to court records and news accounts from the time.

Sixteen people were evacuated and prosecutors said that it was a "miracle" that nobody died.

In 2001, Hoffman was sentenced to eight years in prison.

"I don't want to make (your sentence) too long," the judge said.  "I want you to have hope and take advantage of the programs in prison."

Hoffman was supposed to pay $2 million restitution.  Court records showed that he paid about $5,000.  It was not clear from court records whether Hoffman was still on parole, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.

Hoffman's neighbors along Columbus Road said that he moved into the five-bedroom home about a year ago.  They said that he lived alone and had a history of strange behavior that made them uncomfortable.

"At first, (Hoffman) seemed like he was OK," said Donna Davis, his next door neighbor.  "Then, I started making my kids come in when he was outside."

Davis told 10TV's Glenn McEntyre that initially, Hoffman seemed more odd than menacing.

"He was a weirdo," Davis said.  "If you look back here in the tree, there's a hammock where he would sit and watch people.  He's just different.  He would always walk over to the gravel pit with bags and sometimes not bring them back.  Sometimes he would."

The former gravel pit that Davis mentioned is now known as Foundation Park, a few blocks from Hoffman's home.

"I told the FBI this morning, 'Go check the gravel pit if they're looking for anything, because that's where he always walked,'" Davis said.

Volunteers, including Sprang's brother, searched the park on Sunday. 

Davis said that although she saw and heard nothing strange in the days leading up to Sunday's arrest but over the last four days, she was growing increasingly wary Hoffman.

"He said to my friend that he wanted to punch my kid in the face, and my kid is 8. So the guy's disturbed, obviously," Davis said.

Two people who spoke with McEntyre said that Hoffman had recently assaulted a former girlfriend.

Hoffman was expected to be in court on Monday, 10TV News reported.

No one has seen or heard from the missing women or children since Wednesday, when Herrmann failed to show up for work.  On Thursday, both of her children were absent from school.

Barber said that special attention was being paid to blood that was found inside Herrmann's home.  Barber called the amount of blood "unusual."

"It is obvious that someone was injured in the house," Barber said.

Kody A. Maynard is 4 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 70 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes.

Sprang is 5 feet, 3 inches tall, weighing 110 pounds, with blonde hair and green eyes.

Herrmann is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 122 pounds, with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Knox County Sheriff's Office at 740-397-3333.

Stay with 10TV News and refresh 10TV.com for continuing coverage.

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