MOUNT VERNON, Ohio – Blood covered so much of an Ohio home where two women and an 11-year-old boy were stabbed to death that several rooms have to be gutted, a family friend said.
Tina Herrmann, her son, Kody Maynard, and her friend Stephanie Sprang were stabbed multiple times, and their dismembered remains were put in garbage bags and lowered into a hollow tree, Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle said Saturday.
Authorities found the bodies Thursday, along with the remains of the family dog, a miniature pinscher named Tanner, said Joe Pejsa, a family friend.
Pejsa, the uncle of Herrmann's former live-in boyfriend, Greg Borders, said he was the first person allowed inside Herrmann's home after investigators cleared the scene. He cleaned blood off the bathroom walls with bleach so his nephew wouldn't have to see it.
"It was terrible," he said. "Everything led back to the bathroom."
The victims disappeared Nov. 10 along with Herrmann's daughter, 13-year-old Sarah Maynard, who was found bound and gagged days later in the basement of an unemployed tree-cutter, Matthew Hoffman. Hoffman is accused of kidnapping the girl and keeping her in the basement of his home in Mount Vernon, about 10 miles west of Howard in central Ohio.
Authorities say Hoffman provided information that led investigators to the bodies in a wildlife preserve. He is the only suspect in the killings. His attorney has declined to comment.
The disappearances and subsequent discovery of the bodies have unfolded like a horror movie in Mount Vernon, where people banded together to form search parties in hopes of finding the victims.
Pejsa answered the door Saturday at Herrmann's home, where he was moving out furniture with Borders, who did not want to be interviewed. A memorial of flowers and balloons was growing on the front lawn near a tree that Pejsa says Kody used as second base when he played kickball.
The bodies were found at the base of the tree in Fredericktown, and authorities had to cut away part of the trunk to get them out, Pejsa said investigators told him.
Preliminary autopsy reports show that the three were stabbed multiple times with a knife in the back and chest Nov. 10.
"They were then placed inside large plastic garbage bags and later lowered into the hollow of a large tree," Ogle said in a statement.
It's not clear why the four were targeted, and authorities have not speculated on a motive. But the sheriff has suggested that Hoffman, who spent six years in a Colorado prison for arson and other charges, had been watching them for some time.
In the months before they died, Pejsa said, Borders and Herrmann suspected somebody was watching them. Several months ago, they saw a man dressed in camouflage sitting on a tree stump across the street, staring at their home. He said Borders couldn't say for sure if the man on the stump was Hoffman, but he believes it was him.
"There would be knocks at the door and people would take off," he said.
Pejsa said the family has been moving some of the furniture out of the home and has hired a company to gut some of the rooms.
"Greg has no intention of coming back to this place," he said.