Man Gets Life In Prison For Knox County Slayings, Rape


UPDATED: Sunday January 9, 2011 9:54 AM

Matthew Hoffman, the man suspected of killing three people in Knox County, pleaded guilty to all charges against him on Thursday and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Hoffman, 30, faced a total of 10 counts, including aggravated murder, gross abuse of a corpse, burglary, kidnapping and rape.

Prosecutors said previously that they were not pursuing a death sentence at the wishes of the victims' families, 10TV's Ashleigh Barry reported. The families agreed that if Hoffman cooperated with investigators they would press for the death penalty.

Authorities said Hoffman killed and dismembered Tina Herrmann, 32, her son, Kody, 11, and a family friend, Stephanie Sprang, 41.  The three bodies were found on Nov. 18 inside a hollow tree at the Kokosing Nature Preserve near Fredericktown in rural Knox County.

SLIDESHOWS:  Knox County Trees |  Bodies Found | Hoffman In Court |  Case Timeline |  Park Search   |   Images From Mount Vernon Neighborhood Four Missing 

Thursday's plea was made in a courtroom packed with friends and family of Hoffman's victims.  Among those in attendance was Herrmann's teenage daughter, who prosecutors said was kidnapped and raped by Hoffman.

Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher said that Hoffman's motive was burglary.

After Hoffman's sentencing, Thatcher met with family and members of the media and said that investigators believe the motive was a burglary that went wrong, 10TV's Tanisha Mallett reported.

At least one family said they do not buy it. Sprang's family said it just does not make sense.

"If you are breaking into a house, if you are surprised you will knock that person out and take off your not going to wait around two more hours for three more people to come up," said Sherri Baxter, Sprang's sister.

The family said the fact that Hoffman waited for Herrmann's children to come home from school also gives them reason to doubt.

"My trust has been shaken by the events of Hoffman and it makes it hard to deal, or believe anything, really, at this time," said Stephen Thompson, Sprang's father.

An indictment stated that Hoffman killed the three while he was committing a burglary inside Herrmann's King Beach Drive home in Howard, Ohio.  A preliminary report from Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle said that three died on Nov. 10 of multiple stab wounds to the chest and back.

Each victim was dismembered after being killed, the report said.

Some of the charges against Hoffman stemmed from the kidnapping and rape of Herrmann's teenage daughter.

A SWAT team found the 13-year-old girl bound and gagged in Hoffman's basement on Nov. 14.

Four days later, his attorney led authorities to the bodies.

After the sentencing, the Hoffman family issued a statement that said, "Our whole family has been and is still praying for the victim's losses. Our hearts go out to them. We disagree with his actions, but we still love matt as a member of our family."

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

Previous Stories: 

December 7, 2010: Accused Knox County Kidnapper Taken Off Suicide Watch
November 24, 2010: Fire At Home Of Slain Knox Co. Woman Ruled Arson
November 23, 2010: Fire Causes Minor Damage To Home Of Slain Knox Co. Woman
November 22, 2010 : Accused Knox County Kidnapper Waives Hearing
November 22, 2010: Knox Co. Community Reeling From 'Evil Personified'
November 20, 2010:  Knox County Women, Boy Stabbed And Dismembered
November 19, 2010:  Family, Community Mourns Knox County Tragedy
November 19, 2010: New Details Released On Discovery Of Bodies
November 19, 2010: Hundreds Join Vigil For Slain Women, Boy
November 18, 2010: Remains Of Women, 11-Year-Old, Found
November 18, 2010: Clothing Found During Knox County Search
November 17, 2010:  Sheriff: Reality 3 Missing May Be Dead 'More Prevalent'
November 17, 2010: Knox Co. Search Enters Seventh Day
November 16, 2010: Suspected Kidnapper Bought Trash Bags, T-Shirt, Tarps
November 16, 2010:  Families Still Hopeful 3 Will Be Found Alive
November 15, 2010: Mother Of Suspected Kidnapper Says He Is 'Loner'
November 15, 2010: Sheriff: 3 Missing People Could Be Dead
November 15, 2010:  Police Block Off Park As Mount Vernon Search Continues
November 15, 2010:  Suspected Kidnapper's Past Includes Arson Conviction
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