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, bound and gagged in the basement of 30-year-old 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, around the same time 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 and is with family members.
“Not only is she assisting in the investigation, but under the circumstances, a 13-year-old girl, being held captive for four days by a total stranger — I would call her the epitome of bravery.”
Barber would reveal very few details as to what information Sarah has provided investigators since her rescue but did say the last time Sarah saw her mother and brother was in their King Beach Drive home on Wednesday. He said it may have been Thursday when Sarah saw Sprang last, but wasn’t certain. The first time Sarah had contact with Hoffman, the sheriff said, was inside her home but no date was provided.
“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,” Barber said.
“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.”
The sheriff does not believe the three missing people are “outside the geographical location of Knox County.”
Barber said they have not established a concrete connection between Hoffman and the Herrmann family, or Sprang, 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 this afternoon at 3 p.m.
Hoffman is scheduled for a bond hearing today at 1:30 p.m. in Mount Vernon Municipal Court. At this time, he was been charged with one count of kidnapping.
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.