Bodies of mother and son found in tree hollow
Published 20/11/2010 | 05:00
RESIDENTS of a tiny central Ohio town were in shock last night after the bodies of a missing mother, her 11-year-old son and a family friend were found stuffed into garbage bags and hidden in a hollow tree.
The discovery came four days after authorities found the mother's 13-year-old daughter bound and gagged, but alive, in the basement of a home about a 15-mile drive from the wildlife area where the bodies were discovered.
The first indication that something had gone terribly wrong came when an ice cream shop manager went to check on a friend who didn't show up for work.
The manager, Valerie Haythorn, said when she drove by last week, the lights were on at the home where Tina Herrmann lived with her two children. Her truck was also in the driveway and, thinking all was well, Ms Haythorn kept driving. When Herrmann missed a second day, Ms Haythorn drove back to the house -- and this time she went inside.
She refused to describe what she saw, only saying that she immediately called authorities. It was during that November 11 visit, the sheriff says, that a significant amount of blood was discovered and the search for four missing people began.
Three days later, Herrmann's 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Maynard, was found bound and gagged -- but alive -- in the basement of a home.
On Thursday, the search reached a tragic end when authorities found the bodies of Herrmann; her 11-year-old son, Cody; and her 41-year-old friend, Stephanie Sprang, stuffed into garbage bags and hidden in a hollow tree.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber said investigators were led to the bodies by Matthew Hoffman, an unemployed tree-trimmer accused of kidnapping the girl and keeping her for nearly four days in the basement of his home in Mount Vernon, about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.
It was unclear how the three others died -- or how someone managed to put their bodies inside the hollow tree. Mr Barber said all three were killed in Herrmann's home in Howard, though he did not say how.
Mr Hoffman remains jailed on the kidnapping charge, and is the only suspect in the killings.