Man: Death resulted from burglary gone wrong

Matthew Hoffman, center, listens to the judge during his arraignment Thursday in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Hoffman pleaded guilty to killing three people and stuffing their bodies in a hollow tree.

Matthew Hoffman, center, listens to the judge during his arraignment Thursday in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Hoffman pleaded guilty to killing three people and stuffing their bodies in a hollow tree. Photo by The Associated Press.

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (AP) — An unemployed tree-cutter who broke into a home to commit “a random burglary” admitted Thursday that he killed three people who surprised him and confronted him, then stuffed their remains in a hollow tree. He also pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping a 13-year-old girl who was with them.

Matthew Hoffman, 30, entered the plea to aggravated murder, burglary, kidnapping, rape and other charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the deaths of Tina Herrmann, whose home he broke into; her 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard; and neighbor Stephanie Sprang. They were stabbed, dismembered and put into garbage bags and then into the tree, prosecutors said.

“This is so sickening, Matthew, to know you even had the guts to do this,” the girl said in a statement read aloud in court by a prosecutor.

Speaking for Hoffman in court, his attorney, Bruce Malek, said Hoffman apologizes and that he decided not to speak in court in part because he “did not feel that he would be able to make even a short statement without breaking down.”

Hoffman was accused of kidnapping the teenage girl, a relative of Herrmann’s, during the break-in Nov. 10 and raping her at his home in the small central Ohio city of Mount Vernon. She was found alive, bound and gagged, in his basement.

Malek and Knox County prosecutor John Thatcher said they weren’t sure why Hoffman killed the other three but not the girl.

“I don’t think he gave any other reason other than he couldn’t bring himself to do it,” Thatcher said.

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