The three bodies of a missing Ohio family have been found inside garbage bags in a hollow tree about 20 miles northwest of the family’s Knox County home.
The bodies found are those of 32-year-old Tina Hermann, her 10-year-old son, Kody Maynard and family friend, 41-year-old Stephanie Sprang, Knox County Sheriff David Barber confirmed in a press conference Thursday.
“I have never experienced a case this big, this serious and this tragic,” said Barber at the press conference.
Police were led to the bodies by Matthew Hoffman, the prime suspect in the case. Hoffman has been charged with kidnapping 13-year-old Sarah Maynard, who was found by a SWAT team bound and gagged in Hoffman’s basement Sunday.
Investigators would not discuss details of Sarah's ordeal, but have said she is doing well, under the circumstances.
"We're inspired by Sarah's bravery," said Barber.
Hoffman is a 30-year-old unemployed tree trimmer who spent six years in Colorado prison. He remains in county jail on the kidnapping charge and is being held on $1 million bond. Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher says no homicide charges have been filed.
"The tragedy today is just devastating," said Thatcher. "The results aren't what we wanted them to be."
The family was reported missing after the mother, Tina Hermann, failed to show up for work at a local Dairy Queen on Nov. 10. A day later, a deputy found what authorities called an unusual amount of blood inside her home, and her pickup truck was found near the campus of Kenyon College.
It was unclear how well Hoffman knew the four, but the sheriff suggested that the defendant had been watching them.
The sheriff did not say what led investigators to Hoffman's two-story, tan-sided house in Mount Vernon, about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.
He said authorities first questioned Hoffman the day after Herrmann did not show up for work. Police found him sitting in his car near a bike trail near where Herrmann's pickup truck was found, Barber said.
Hoffman's former girlfriend claimed he choked her, pushed her against a wall and pinned her neck with his forearm during an argument at his house on Oct. 24, according to a police report. The woman told investigators she thought he was going to kill her, but did not want to press charges.
Hoffman was previously sentenced to eight years in prison in Colorado for arson and other charges. The conviction stemmed from a town house fire set to cover up a burglary.
Hoffman returned to Ohio after he was released in 2007.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.