MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Sheriff David Barber said Monday he needs to be realistic when it comes to the three Howard residents who have been missing since Wednesday and that there is a possibility they may be dead.
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“When you have a situation like this and there has been no contact with them, except for Sarah (Maynard), we have to approach the investigation, based on evidence based on interviews and based on the fact that we haven’t seen them. There is a possibility that Tina, Stephanie and Kody are dead, that they have been killed. That makes it essential that if anyone sees something they think might be evidence that they back away from it and call the sheriff.”
Tina Herrmann, 32; Kody Maynard, 11; and Stephanie Sprang, 41, have been missing since Wednesday. Thirteen-year-old Sarah Maynard was found alive Sunday morning in the basement of Matthew Hoffman’s Columbus Road home.
Still close-lipped regarding how the investigation led to Hoffman, Barber revealed for the first time at his press briefing Monday that a sheriff’s deputy talked to Hoffman in the area where a truck belonging to Herrmann was found late Thursday. Hoffman was sitting in his vehicle at a parking lot of the Kokosing Gap Trail, near the Brown Family Environmental Center, before Herrmann’s truck was found there later in the evening. Barber said it is routine for deputies to check out people in a situation like that and sometimes run a check on the car and its registration.
“That incident did not lead to his arrest,” Barber said.
Regarding Sarah Maynard, Barber said she is doing well.
“Sarah is with family members now,” he said. “She was treated at a local hospital and is doing well.”
Barber said based on the rescue of Maynard, and the arrest of Hoffman, the investigation has taken a new direction.
“The investigation has turned into a two-pronged approach,” Barber explained. “Obviously, with her rescue we want to remain optimistic that Tina, Stephanie and Kody are alive and perhaps held against their will at some location. That makes it important for the public to think back about something they saw that might be unusual and if they have, please call the sheriff’s office.”
“What we do want is for anyone who might have had contact with any of the four of them on Wednesday to contact our detective division,” Barber added. “We want to establish some kind of a timeline and to find out if anyone noticed something unusual about them that night. We have talked to a lot of people who have had contact with them including students at East Knox who went to school with them.”
Late Monday morning, Mount Vernon Police Officers, along with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, checked out some clothing found Sunday night at Foundation Park, only a few blocks away from Hoffman’s home.
“One of our officers was walking in Foundation Park [Sunday] night looking for evidence on his own,” said Capt. George Hartz of the Mount Vernon Police Department. “He found some clothing that looked to him like it had blood evidence on it. The BCI&I checked it out this morning and a field test showed it was not human blood. The BCI&I took the clothing into evidence for further testing.”
Barber said he was not aware of that find.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol had a surveillance helicopter and two boats in the lakes at Foundation Park this morning.
“We are looking for anyone or anything that may have gone from this scene that might be relevant to the investigation.”
Barber said they have not established a concrete connection between Hoffman and the Herrmann family other than the fact that he once lived at a residence that was about a mile from the Herrmann residence.
Barber addressed the question of whether Hoffman acted alone or not.
“We believe he acted alone,” Barber said. “There is nothing to indicate an accomplice.”
Barber scheduled another briefing for Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m.
Anyone with information about the case can call the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at 393-6800 or the TIPs line at 888-363-8477.
Hoffman is scheduled for a bond hearing Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in Mount Vernon Municipal Court. At this time, he was been charged with one count of kidnapping.