By The Associated Press
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (AP) — A 13-year-old girl missing for days was found bound and gagged but alive in a basement Sunday, and authorities hoped a man charged with kidnapping her might lead them to her mother, brother and another woman who disappeared with her.
Matthew J. Hoffman, 30, was arrested at his Mount Vernon home, where Sarah Maynard was found, Knox County Sheriff David Barber said. He said the girl was hospitalized in good condition but would give no details and did not say if she had been sexually abused.
Barber did not say what led investigators to Hoffman’s home, a two-story house with tan siding and a large television antenna on the roof that is about 10 miles from the home of Sarah’s family. He said authorities hoped Hoffman would give them information leading to Sarah’s mother, Tina Herrmann, her 10-year-old brother, Kody, and Herrman’s 41-year-old friend Stephanie Sprang.
“We were hopeful of finding more than one of the missing people in the house,” Barber said. “But the information we had was that Sarah would definitely be found in that house.”
The four vanished Wednesday in a case that was all the more alarming because an unusual amount of blood was found at Hermann’s home.
Authorities believe the girl had been “under the control” of Hoffman since Wednesday, when she and her brother last attended school, the sheriff said. He did not know if Hoffman was connected to either Herrmann or Sprang, but said he is not the ex-boyfriend of either woman.
“At this time, whether he’s connected to the family or whether he connected himself to the family … a lot of that remains to be seen as the investigation continues,” Barber said.
Hoffman was charged with kidnapping, and Barber said more charges are expected. Neighbors has said they saw a body bag being taken from Hoffman’s home about 40 miles north of Columbus, but the sheriff said that was “absolutely false.”
“We have no one that we’re aware of who is deceased,” Barber said. “So we’re still treating this as a missing persons case.”
Authorities blocked off about a half block on either side of the house as they investigated early Sunday afternoon, keeping people from entering or leaving about a half dozen homes. But by late afternoon, the only sign of investigative activity was red and white evidence tape sealing the front door of the home closed.
Diane Davis, whose daughter lives next door to Hoffman, described him as a “crazy man.” She said he at times sat in a tree behind the house and looked out at other people and that he often went to a nearby fishing hole with a backpack but no rod.
Herrmann was reported missing Wednesday when she did not show up for work at a local Dairy Queen. Barber has said blood indicating an injury had been found in her home, where Sprang’s vehicle was in the driveway.
Herrmann’s pickup truck had been found Thursday night near the Kenyon College campus, leading to a lockdown at the school.
Hoffman was being held in the county jail. A bond hearing was expected to be held Monday. Attempts to reach relatives of Hoffman and of Sarah were unsuccessful Sunday.