Bodies of 2 women, boy missing in Ohio found in tree

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (AP) - Three people who vanished from a blood-spattered home more thana week ago were found dead inside a hollow tree Thursday, daysafter the teenage daughter of one of the victims was rescued --bound and gagged -- from the basement of an ex-convict who workedas a tree-trimmer.

Authorities said all three were murdered in the home, thoughthey did not say how, and the ex-convict gave investigatorsinformation that led them to the bodies in garbage bags in woods incentral Ohio. He remained jailed on kidnapping charges and was theonly suspect in the killings, Knox County Sheriff David Barbersaid.

"The tragedy today is just devastating," said Knox Countyprosecutor John Thatcher. "The results aren't what we wanted themto be."

The mother, her daughter and 11-year-old son and a family friendwere reported missing after the mother failed to show up for workat a local Dairy Queen on Nov. 10. A day later, a deputy found whatauthorities called an unusual amount of blood inside her home, andher pickup truck was found near the campus of Kenyon College.

Over the weekend, a SWAT team found 13-year-old Sarah Maynard inthe basement of the home of Matthew Hoffman, a 30-year-oldunemployed tree trimmer who spent six years in a Colorado prison.He was charged with kidnapping the girl and has appeared in courtbut did not enter a plea.

Investigators would not discuss details of Sarah's ordeal, buthave said she is doing well, under the circumstances.

"We're inspired by Sarah's bravery," Barber said.

A day after finding Sarah, authorities conceded that the otherswere likely dead.

Still, volunteers and authorities on the ground and in the aircontinued to search ponds, vacant buildings and bike trails forMaynard's mother, 32-year-old Tina Herrmann; Herrmann's 10-year-oldson, Kody Maynard; and her 41-year-old friend, StephanieSprang.

It was unclear how well Hoffman knew the four, but the sheriffsuggested that the defendant had been watching them.

The sheriff did not say what led investigators to Hoffman'stwo-story, tan-sided house in Mount Vernon, about 40 milesnortheast of Columbus.

He said authorities first questioned Hoffman the day afterHerrmann failed to show up for work. Police found him sitting inhis car near a bike trail near where Herrmann's pickup truck wasfound, Barber said.

Hoffman's former girlfriend claimed he choked her, pushed heragainst a wall and pinned her neck with his forearm during anargument at his house on Oct. 24, according to a police report. Thewoman told investigators she thought he was going to kill her, butdid not want to press charges.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison in Colorado for arsonand other charges. The conviction stemmed from a town house fireset to cover up a burglary.

Hoffman returned to Ohio after he was released in 2007.