MOUNT VERNON — Thursday’s lifetime prison sentencing of Matt Hoffman brought a bit of closure for the victims’ families, but still left a few questions unanswered, while others may never be solved. A press conference conducted by Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher at the Memorial Theater followed Thursday’s sentencing at the courthouse, and some explanations were offered and officials fielded some questions as well.
Get audio from the press conferences, see images of the investigation and search, a map of key events and related stories.
“It was good to get it all out [in court],” said Larry Maynard prior to the start of the conference. “He [Hoffman] got what he deserved. Justice was served.
“We can’t let him know that the victims [families] will be scared. Violence will not be tolerated. But the local law enforcement did a great job. They know more than I know.”
Thatcher opened the press conference introducing assistant prosecutors Jennifer Springer and Chip McConville and thanking them for their assistance in this case. He also introduced Knox County Sheriff David Barber and special agent Joe Dietz.
“The end result today is that Matt Hoffman will go to prison for the rest of his life without parole,” said Thatcher. “I wanted to make sure he spends his life in prison labeled as a sex offender.”
One looming question posed to Thatcher was why a death sentence was not included in the indictments.
“I take full responsibility for all charges. I consulted with the family members and told them of their options,” said Thatcher. He claimed that an offer was made that if Hoffman would identify the location of the remains and that they be recovered and he pleaded guilty, a death penalty would not be included in the indictments.
“They [family] said ‘yes;’ they did not want to be in that position,” said Thatcher. “It was their wish to find their loved ones. And as it turned out, we likely would never have found them in a meaningful period of time. Because of the agreement, we were able to find them. He [Hoffman] gave specific directions which sent us right to their location. And one ray of sunshine in all this is that we were able to rescue Sarah.
“We want to thank all who helped in the investigation and everyone in the community who helped with the search efforts. It was not in vain,” said Thatcher.
When asked what clues led them to Hoffman as the suspect, Thatcher cited two sources. Shopping bags, which were discovered containing trash bags and a tarp, looked out of place. It was shown on Walmart surveillance video that Hoffman had purchased these items together. The license plate on his vehicle in the surveillance video was traced through a Bureau of Motor Vehicles database. This same vehicle belonging to Hoffman was also seen parked near the scene where Tina Herrmann’s vehicle was found abandoned near Gambier.
Another unanswered question is whether Hoffman was alone or did he have help? “We have no reason to believe other people were involved,” said Thatcher. “He was very active and a very fit person,” adding he believed that Hoffman told Sarah Maynard others were involved as a way of controlling her.
In determining why Hoffman chose to spare the life of Sarah, “I believe he just couldn’t bring himself to do it,” said Thatcher, knowing of no other reason.
“Her [Sarah] courage in helping us bring him to justice is something else,” said Thatcher. “If this case were to go to trial, she would be the star witness. She did a great job.”
In speaking of the help he had in prosecuting Hoffman, Thatcher said, “The sheriff’s office handled an impressive amount of work. I also had help from prosecutors all over the state. It was a significant amount of work. But every step was taken to assure the conviction stands up.”
When asked if Hoffman could possibly appeal the conviction, “he could,” was Thatcher’s response. “But the clock would then turn back to Nov. 17, and he would be re-indicted.”
Thatcher announced that Hoffman would probably be taken to the Ohio Correction Reception Center in Orient on Thursday or today. The Corrections Department then decides if he will be sent elsewhere and whether he will be isolated.
“I’m satisfied with what he got,” said Stephen Thompson, father of Stephanie Sprang, following the press conference. “He got what he deserved. I’m satisfied with the results. We’ve tried to go on through Christmas and Thanksgiving, but it’s been hard.”
“Death is too easy for him,” said Sherrie Baxter, sister of Sprang. “We would rather pay the tax dollars and make him suffer,” she said, voicing her disappointment in those who claim that tax funds will be used to keep him in prison.
In response to the help from the Mount Vernon community, “We felt your love ... the community has been great,” said Baxter. “We are satisfied with what they did. They worked long, hard hours. We are grateful to close it off.
“Sarah is holding up well. She is very strong. She’ll make it fine. She has the support of the community.”