MOUNT VERNON — Matthew Hoffman parked his Toyota Yaris at the Kokosing Gap Trail in Howard and walked to King Beach Drive where he slept in a sleeping bag in a wooded area across the street from Tina Herrmann’s home, a house he planned to rob the next day.
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“I chose the house to break into because there was not any close neighbors, and I noticed the garage door was ajar. I chose the house the day before,” Hoffman said in his confession to his attorneys on Nov. 18, 2010.
It was just after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 10, he said, when he settled in for the night. He woke around daylight and noticed one of the two vehicles in the driveway was gone. He went back to sleep until about 9 a.m. and watched for the pickup truck to leave.
When the coast was clear, Hoffman tried to enter through the front door, but it was locked. He then slid under the partially opened garage door and forced his way through the interior entrance to the home.
“I looked around the house to make sure that no one was there,” Hoffman said. “Even if I did not take anything, there was a certain amount of excitement in being in someone else’s home without them being there.”
He searched the house for about an hour, according to the statement transcribed by the Knox County Public Defenders Office, but found very little he thought was “of any real value.” When he was prepared to leave the home, Herrmann returned. At this point, Hoffman said he felt trapped but was prepared to use a knife he took with him for intimidation purposes in case he needed to escape.
When the woman found her way back to her bedroom, Hoffman confronted her and forced her to lie face down on her bed. He said his first instinct was to hit her with his blackjack. With her unconscious, he would be able to leave, he said.
“It (the blackjack) was not doing the job, and I started panicking,” he said.
At this point, Stephanie Sprang appeared and shouted at Hoffman.
“There were now two to deal with and I didn’t know what to do,” Hoffman said.
What comes next in his confession are the details of how Hoffman stabbed the two women and how the reality of what he had just done started to run through his mind.
“At this time I was in a total state of shock,” Hoffman said. “I wandered around [the house] slowly coming to the realization of what I had done and how bad it was. During this time I killed the dog because it wouldn’t stop barking.”
In trying to determine what to do, Hoffman said he contemplated putting Herrmann and Sprang in a vehicle and driving it into a Foundation Park lake. He decided against that plan as he was uncertain if he would be able to swim to safety in the cold water.
He then turned his focus on “processing” the bodies and trying to clean up or cover up the blood. Details in the case file released on Monday explain Hoffman used bleach to try to clean blood from the carpet. When that didn’t work, he poured motor oil on some areas to conceal the presence of blood. A one-gallon milk jug with oil was found in the home.
It was while Hoffman was moving trash bags from the house to the garage where he had parked Sprang’s Jeep, that Herrman’s children came home and found Hoffman in the hallway. Herrmann’s daughter ran to her bedroom; her son’s life was immediately taken by Hoffman.
“I saw the girl was not on the phone (calling for help), and I could not bring myself to kill her,” Hoffman said. “… She was suspicious about the spots of blood that were in the bedroom, but I had already put motor oil on the blood.”
Hoffman said he tied up his captive until he was ready to move her, and the bodies. He drove the Jeep to the baseball fields on Pipesville Road, just outside of Howard, and walked to the bike path to retrieve his Yaris about an hour before sundown.
“I waited until dark to transfer Sarah from the Jeep to my car,” he said.
He then drove Sarah to his Columbus Road home, picked up McDonald’s and ate with her.
“I tried to comfort her, and told her everything would be fine,” he said. “… I made her a bed out of leaves, covered it with blankets, and placed her onto the bed. She liked that bed, it was extremely comfy, and I wanted to sleep on it.”
Hoffman then slept from somewhere between 9 and 10 p.m. until his alarm went off at midnight. He drove his Yaris to the Kokosing Reservoir Nature Preserve to “scout out the area” and to drop off his climbing gear.
“I took my climbing gear up first to ensure that if I were to be pulled over, I would not have the bodies and the climbing gear in the same vehicle,” Hoffman said.
On his way back to Howard to take the Jeep to the nature preserve, Hoffman stopped at Walmart where he purchased two tarps, a box of trash bags, a sandwich and T-shirt. In his statement, Hoffman said he purchased the trash bags because the bags he found in Herrmann’s home were small and thin.
According to the receipt acquired through Walmart, Hoffman made the purchase at 12:08 a.m. When confronted about the discrepancy in his timeline, Hoffman said he believed his chronology was correct and questioned whether or not the clocks in the store were accurate.
He then left his Yaris at the canoe access on Pipesville Road and walked back to the ball fields where he left the Jeep. It was nearly 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, when he returned to the nature preserve. By the time he finished placing the bags inside the tree, it was nearly daylight.
Hoffman returned the Jeep to Herrmann’s house and parked it in the garage. It was at this time that Hoffman left the Walmart bag with tarps and trash bags in the garage. He took gas cans from the garage and put them in Herrman’s truck before leaving in it.
“I was planning on filling the gas cans, and returning to the house,” Hoffman said. “I would place the truck into the garage and burn everything down. The truck would not drive right, as it would not stay in gear, and would not run effectively.”
He decided to leave the truck on Laymon Road and walk back to Howard on the Kokosing Gap Trail.
“I did not realize the distance, and this took quite some time to walk back to my vehicle. I got back to my vehicle about 9 or 10 a.m., and drove home,” he said.
Thursday evening, Hoffman drove back to Gambier to retrieve the gas cans from Herrmann’s truck and proceed with his plan to burn down the house and cover up the evidence of the murders. As soon as he entered a parking lot about 200 yards from Herrmann’s truck, Hoffman was approached by a Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy.
“The deputy indicated certain information to me that caused me to believe that the house had already been discovered. I realized that I could not burn the house down,” he said.
That night at his home, he built a campfire, burnt his shoes and drank wine.
On the morning of Friday, Nov. 12, Hoffman returned to the wooded area where he watched the Herrmann house on Tuesday night, to retrieve his sleeping bag and backpack before they were discovered by investigators. He parked his car in Millwood and rode his bike to Howard then north on Magers Road, passed Sprang’s home, and back to his belongings.
“I did not get to the backpack until almost daylight as it had taken me a long time Friday morning to not get caught due to all of the activity at the house,” he said.
At some point between Friday morning and Sunday morning, Nov. 14, Hoffman returned to the nature preserve to retrieve his climbing gear but there are no specifics for the timing. He did say he left his car at the AMVETS building and returned home.
Hoffman details the events of Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12 and 13, in his home and said there were times when he allowed Sarah to move freely in the home where they watched movies and played video games. In his confession, he said that he told Sarah she was being held for ransom and that he expected her to be home by Christmas.
“On Saturday, when I actually had time to think, I planned on giving her more and more freedom until she ran away,” Hoffman said. “Once she ran away I was going to take off. I did not plan or think too much about what I was going to do once I ran.”
However, a collaborative effort between the Mount Vernon Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office early Sunday morning, Nov. 14, saw MVPD’s Emergency Services Unit storm into Hoffman’s Columbus Road home, arrest Hoffman and release the kidnapped teenager from Hoffman’s control.
Hoffman’s confession is four pages of more than 2,500 pages of documents that were released into public record on Monday. Those convicted of crimes have 30 days to appeal. If no appeal is made, most documents from the investigation become public record.
Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher said medical records are excluded from public record. He plans to request that sealed documents from the case, including search warrants, be unsealed and released as public record.
Hoffman remains at the Correctional Reception Center at Orient. It is unknown where he will be transferred once the intake process is complete. In January, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole.