HONOLULU – A Hawaii man remained jailed on suspicion of three murders Friday after officers responding to a home disturbance arrived just as he was driving away from the scene with blood dripping from the trunk of his car.
Officers pulled over and arrested John Ali Hoffman after spotting him leaving the house and driving away in a car with its headlights off and a gun on the front seat about 1:30 a.m. Friday, police said. The dripping blood led officers to a woman's body stuffed in the trunk and two dead children inside the house in a subdivision in the rural Puna district, police said.
Though his relationship to the victims wasn't clear, it "looks like they were all living in the same house," police Capt. Robert Wagner said.
A relative said Hoffman had a wife and two young children — a boy and a girl.
Police were trying to identify the victims.
Hoffman's sister-in-law, Marie Hoffman, was shocked to hear the allegations.
"That don't sound right," she said several times in a phone interview from Minneapolis.
She said she did not know much about John Hoffman's wife but that he is originally from St. Louis and moved to Hawaii about 20 years ago.
Marie Hoffman, who is married to his brother, described John Hoffman as the kind of man who takes care of people, especially children.
"He's stern, but he's cool," she said.
A man who lives next door to Hoffman told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that he occasionally heard arguments coming from the home.
"I do know they were not a happy couple over there," Tim Mullins told the newspaper. "They would argue and fight, and I would hear it from time to time. But before it got too bad, it would quiet out."
Other residents said they did not know anyone with Hoffman's name in the subdivision, which has about 800 to 900 homes on 1-acre or larger lots.
Police didn't disclose the exact address, but Hoffman's name is not listed as a property owner, said Richard Robbins, a Leilani Community Association board member. Robbins, who is in charge of enforcing association rules, said he has not heard of Hoffman.
Like much of the Puna district, the homes use rainwater catchment tanks and cesspools or septic tanks. A lot of residents rely on solar power and depending on the carrier, cellphone reception can be spotty, Robbins said.
It is the only Big Island subdivision with fully paved roads, spanning 21 miles, he said.
A triple homicide is rare, not only for the area, but for the entire island, police said.
"I can't remember having one before," Wagner, the police captain said. "It's definitely unique."
Some residents of the subdivision agreed.
"We have crime on the Big Island just like anyplace else," said resident John Rivera, who also did not know Hoffman. "But this is surprising, really surprising."