Suspected Kidnapper's Past Includes Arson Conviction


UPDATED: Monday November 15, 2010 6:01 PM

More information was uncovered over the weekend about a man suspected in the kidnapping of a 13-year-old Knox County girl. 

Court records showed that Matthew 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.

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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.

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.'

Watch 10TV News and refresh 10TV.com for continuing coverage.

Previous Stories:

November 15, 2010: Man Charged In Teen's Kidnapping; 3 Still Missing
November 14, 2010: Missing Girl Found Safe; Man In Custody
November 13, 2010:  Search For 4 Grows More Intense
November 13, 2010:  Support Growing To Find Missing Family, Friend
November 12, 2010:  Search Continues For Missing Women, Children
November 12, 2010:  4 Missing From Knox Co.; Discovery Of Pickup Prompts Kenyon College Lockdown