Matthew Hoffman

This case begs the question of just what is insanity and just what does it take to be considered insane. I know what the courts say, but that is not something I have ever really agreed with. The courts simple answer to that question is whether the perpetrator knows the difference between right and wrong. If they do, they are sane.... period. Seventeen years ago when Andrea Yates drowned her children in their bathtub one by one the issue of insanity, as well as postpartum psychosis, was brought to the forefront. I have noticed that over the years it seem that people have softened on their thoughts of Andrea. It used to be that I was in the minority in my thinking and considering her mental illness. Either that has changed or I just surround myself with people more in line with my thinking because I see more people today understanding her issues and realizing that knowing the legal difference between right and wrong does not mean you are sane. But, Andrea Yates clearly suffered from postpartum psychosis, something men cannot get, but does that mean that they cannot be “insane”? Do not think that because I believe that the standards for the test of insanity should be different that I do not think people should be punished for their actions. The courts granted Andrea Yate a second trial after her first conviction and while she was still clearly held responsible for the murders of her children she was sent to a mental institution and she has to be granted parole before she can be released and it is not just an easy task to simplify. A good example of this would be John Hinckley Jr, the man who shot Ronald Reagan. He shot Reagan in 1981 and was deemed insane (ok, ok, clearly he is a man!) and was not released from the mental institution until 2016, although admittedly he had some day passes and short periods out leading up to his release. That being said, even though he was deemed insane he spent thirty-five years in a mental institution. I would hardly say that he was not punished for his crime.

On Thursday November 11, 2010 Tina Herrmann's boss went to her home in Mt. Vernon Ohio when she had not come to work that day. Upon looking in the windows her boss saw evidence of blood and called the police. Investigators went into the home when they arrived and not only did they see what Tina's boss had seen but much, much more. Something horrible had happened in this home. Thirty-two year old Tina lived in the home with her two teenage children, a thirteen year old daughter and eleven year old Kody Maynard. At some point the daughter's name was released to the media and so I do know it but just as the media later decided to stop using her name, I have also due to the nature of the crime and the trauma she suffered. It was unclear whether Tina's friend, Stephanie Sprang also lived in the home or was just a close friend and neighbor to her. However, it was quickly discovered that both women and the two children were missing and by the looks of evidence in the home they were not sure any of them were alive. Because there was evidence of a crime having been committed inside the home a full scale investigation and search was launched.

Later that night Tina's vehicle was found abandoned near Kenyon College. Officers were dispatched to the scene and apparently stayed a while processing things. While there an officer saw a man on a bicycle pass by. The officer stopped him and asked him a few questions. The man said that he was waiting for his girlfriend to get off work at a nearby Inn. He apparently told the officer he had not seen anything, nor did he know anything about the vehicle. In the meantime the investigators who had gone through the home had found a Wal-mart bag. It is unclear whether inside the bag were items or if it was simply the receipt for items. The items were two tarps and a box of 55-gal heavy duty trash bags. Investigators were able to determine where they were bought and looked at surveillance footage from the store. While watching the video they found the man they were looking for buying the items. They then continued to watch him and determined that he went to the parking lot and got into a Toyota Yaris. They began a search for all vehicles matching that description in the area and who they belonged to. In the process the officer who had talked to the man near where Tina's vehicle had been found recognized him in one of the license photos as owning a Yaris.

At around 6 am on Sunday November 14th for officers, including the SWAT team, to enter the home of Matthew Hoffman. Officers were taken aback. They found Hoffman in the front room of the home on the couch when they arrived but they also found mounds, and mounds of leaves in the room. Investigators would later say they feared that under some of the piles of leaves that were said to be at least three foot high there would be bodies hidden. Thankfully that was not the case. While officers detained Hoffman they looked around the home. In the bathroom it was said there were more than 100 grocery size bags of leaves. Officers would notice a cabinet that was blocking what looked to be a basement door. They moved it and descended into the dark and dank basement. It was there that they found the thirteen year old girl they were looking for. Hoffman had made her a bed... of what else? Leaves. Her hands and feet were bound. She would be found wearing what was described as “a white plastic bag” with holes cut out for her legs. It was also described as “diaperlike.” As they were removing the young girl from the home it appeared that she had no idea anything had happened to her family but was worried about the family dog.

Matthew Hoffman was taken to the police station for questioning. The young girl would also be questioned and all the while his home would be searched. There was no other evidence of the other victims, anywhere. While Matthew Hoffman decided he was not talking it seems that the young girl would be able to give them some information. And, let me be clear, Hoffman was not silent because he asked or wanted an attorney, he was just literally silent and would say nothing. In fact, it was said that the first interview last four hours and he said absolutely nothing! It would be two more days before Hoffman would tell investigators anything and another four days before the victims would be found. It would be then that Hoffman would confess. The following information is based on that confession.

On the night of November 9, 2010 Hoffman claimed that he slept in the woods near Tina Herrmann's home. He claims he had plans to simply burglarize the home and he was staking it out. He even claims that he took a sleeping bag with him that night to keep warm. Sometime after 9:00 the next morning he saw Tina Herrmann leave the house. It was unclear if the garage door to the home was broken at the nearly isolated home or whether he was able to sneak in without being seen before it closed. At any rate, this is how and when Hoffman claims to have gotten into the home. He would say that he had been in the home for about an hour when Tina Herrmann came back and surprised him. He apparently stabbed her and a few minutes later Stephanie Sprang entered the home and also “surprised” him. He proceeded to then kill her also. He would claim that this was all unexpected and he did not plan to kill anyone. Investigators would doubt this considering that they found evidence that just a few weeks prior to the murders he had ordered the knife that he used.

Apparently it seems he left the home to go to Wal-mart and bought the tarps and trash bags. He took the bodies of the ladies into the bathroom and into the tub where he began to dismember their bodies. I have to doubt this was done with the same knife he used to stab them but I could be wrong, although I found nothing in my research to say what Hoffman used to complete this task. While he was in the middle of “processing” the bodies as he said the children came home from school. It was said that the young girl went to her room but it appears she did so without seeing Hoffman, at least at that point. Eleven year old Kody was not that lucky. Kody would meet the same fate as his mother and her friend. At some point Hoffman retrieved the young girl from her mom and allegedly moved her in a way through the house and into the kitchen that she did not see anything and bound her there while he finished what he was doing. While I can tell you that the family dog was also killed, I cannot tell you when that happened, although I suspect the dog was likely the first victim. He would only say that he killed the dog because it would not stop barking. Hoffman proceeded to put the body parts in the trash bags, leaving behind a pair of gloves that investigators determined were the same type he had recently bought. The trash bags were placed in a vehicle. I cannot say which one at this point because it was said that throughout all of this Hoffman used not just his own vehicle, or even Tina Herrmann's but also Stephanie Sprang's at different times. Whether all of the trash bags were put in at once is also not clear but Hoffman also took the young girl with him.

Their first stop was apparently his home. He would take the young girl downstairs to the basement and bound her hands and feet. Whether anything else was done at this point I cannot say but he claims he left her and took the bags to an area where he knew of a sixty foot hollow tree. He had once worked as a tree trimmer and he had all the equipment he needed to scale the tree. He would do this repeatedly to get to the top of the tree and drop the trash bags inside. The following night he had returned to the place in which he had left Tina Herrmann's vehicle. He would tell investigators that he had planned to get the vehicle, obtain gasoline and return to the home and set it on fire. This was foiled when he saw the police officer at the vehicle. It is not known exactly what the officer asked him that night at the scene or what the officer may have eluded to them knowing but it is likely that Hoffman knew at this point going back to the home was not a good idea.

When Hoffman talked about his time with the young girl to the investigators he made it sound like he was completely wonderful and nice to her. He talked about how he gave her a copy of Treasure Island and watched movies with her. It is unclear if he admitted to raping the young girl or if they had to pull that out of him after talking to her. He had told her that she would be home by Christmas and that he was negotiating a ransom with her family. She had no idea this was not true and what had really happened.

Within the investigation of course they looked into Hoffman's background, recent, and not so recent. They discovered that at the age of nineteen, in 2000, he had been working as a plumber in Steamboat Springs Colorado. He had worked on a condominium that had several units within the building. Hoffman had decided to burglarize one of the units. He would later tell investigators in that case that after doing so he had gone home and worried about all the fingerprints he likely left and decided to go back and set it on fire. Sixteen other people lived in the building but were able to escape unharmed. The building however suffered extensive damage. Estimates say that it came to about two million but then other things say that was his total restitution so not all of that may have been damage to the building. Some could have been to residents who lost items. I found no information as to what led authorities to him in that case but just as was the case here, he confessed fairly easily and apparently pleaded guilty. He would spent the next six years in prison and was released in January of 2007 and paroled back to his home state of Ohio. Investigators found it interesting that in the previous case he had gone back to set it on fire, and that is what he said he was planning to do to Tina Herrmann's home.

As far as recent history the investigators would learn that he had lost his job, his home was in foreclosure and his car was about to be repossessed. On top of this his girlfriend had claimed that on October 24th Hoffman had attempted to choke her and she and her son moved out of his home. Authorities would say that there had been little furniture in the home when they entered on November 14th and I can only assume all of the leaves they found in the home were not there prior to the girlfriend leaving. A neighbor commented that there were only two trees either in Hoffman's yard or even nearby and indicated there was no way that he had gotten that many leaves in the home from just those trees. This indicated that he apparently “hauled” them in. When they had searched his home after finding the young girl, the investigators had opened apparently a deep freezer of some sort. It was said that inside was a few popsicles and two dead squirrels. One of the neighbors claimed that he killed squirrels to eat because he did not grocery shop. He was described as a loner, with few friends. One of those friends allegedly said Hoffman was “intelligent but without a lick of common sense.” A forensic psychologist was brought in to study Hoffman. He stated that Hoffman's obsession with leaves and trees were high indications of mental illness and delusions. He described it as “bizarre and unique” and something he had never come close to seeing from other convicted murderers. This was as much as I was able to find when it came to any evaluation done on Hoffman.

It is unclear if Matthew Hoffman had any sort of legal representation through any of this. Of course the prosecutors knew they had their man, he had admitted it and there was apparently plenty of evidence. There was talk of seeking the death penalty but that had been dropped early on, although not in a legal sense I suppose. After his arrest, but before he led investigators to the bodies, he had all but told them that he had murdered the victims. On November 16th, two days after his arrest, he told the investigators he had a “dream” and that he would lead them to the bodies, if they played along with his game. His “game” so to speak was that while taking him to the bodies he would attempt to escape and the officers were to shoot him. The investigators told him they were not going to play. So it seems that after talking to the families they agreed to tell Hoffman they would not seek the death penalty if he told them where the bodies were. This is what he did. Now, as I said there was probably nothing set legally that held the prosecutor or investigators to that deal but they did apparently make it. It appears that there were several people who knew about the deal too, which would also have made it difficult to go back on, but not impossible. But, I have to question at that point if the death penalty would have ever been an option for them to seek. Do not get me wrong, it enabled the investigators to find the victims and that was very important and if they played him to give them the location, so be it. But it does not mean that they ever would have sought the death penalty. It seems that everyone knew “something” was wrong with this guy. Whether it was mental illness to a legal standard... I do not know, but the problem is, they may have not known the answer to that either at that point. And, until they did the death penalty could have been threatened, it could have even been filed, but it could not be certain that it could be applied.

Hoffman would plead guilty on January 6, 2011, less than two month after the crime had occurred. I have a problem with this. I just do not see that this was sufficient time to assess the situation and his issues properly. He was given three life sentences without parole plus nine years on each count of burglary, kidnapping and rape, four years for tampering with evidence and an eleven month sentence for the abuse of a corpse. The remaining sentences were said to run concurrently to the life sentences. He will surely die in prison. Whether he was barred from appealing his case is not clear but I did not find an appeal in my research. What I can say is that he has apparently had several disciplinary issues while in prison, at least one being a charge of “disobedience.” The fact of the matter is that aside from maybe receiving some medication, although I cannot prove this, he is not getting any help for any mental illness he may have. There is a part of me that finds this wrong and I feel as if investigators were more about closing this case than helping anyone or getting to the root of the issues.

As a side note ….
After being rescued the young lady was sent to live with her father and step-mother. She and her father, along with an established author wrote a book called “The Girl In the Leaves.” They also appeared on an episode of the Dr. Phil show in early 2013. A few months after that aired charges were brought against Larry Maynard and his wife Tracey for allegedly beating the young girl on two different occasions. The first allegedly occurred on May 3rd in which it was said Larry had punched her in the back and the head. Five days later it was alleged that Tracey Maynard kicked the girl down a flight of stairs. The young girl and her two half brothers were removed from the home and the parents were arrested. In September of that year prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Larry because he had completed court ordered parenting classes and therapy. Tracey was to go to court the following month and while I did not find any information it had been said the same would likely happen to her. This prevented the young girl from having to testify against either of them. It was also said in the agreement that Larry Maynard agreed to allow the girl to live with her maternal grandmother. 


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