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Missing Ohio women, boy confirmed dead

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Missing Ohio women, boy found dead
  • NEW: Prosecutor says he can't comment on whether suspect confessed
  • Bodies of two women and a boy, 10, were found a week after they disappeared
  • Matthew Hoffman, 30, held in kidnapping of girl, gave information, sheriff says
  • 13-year-old daughter of one of the victims was found safe in a police raid

For more coverage, check out CNN affiliate WBNS-10TV.

(CNN) -- A kidnapping suspect provided information that led to the discovery of the bodies of a missing Ohio woman, her 10-year-old son and a family friend, authorities said Thursday.

The remains of Tina Herrmann, 32, her 10-year-old son, Kody Maynard, and her 41-year-old friend Stephanie Sprang were found in trash bags placed in the hollow of a tree, Knox County Sheriff David Barber said. Hearses left a wilderness area northwest of the town of Fredericktown in Knox County.

Herrmann's daughter, Sarah Maynard, 13, was found alive Sunday morning in Mount Vernon, about 50 miles northeast of Columbus.

Matthew Hoffman, 30, who lives in the home where Sarah Maynard was found, provided the information that led to the discovery of the three bodies, Barber said. Hoffman currently faces a kidnapping charge in the abduction of Sarah Maynard, Barber said.

Hoffman has experience as a tree trimmer, the sheriff said.

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"I have never experienced anything this big, this serious and this tragic," said Barber, who announced the news at a somber press conference.

When asked if officials took the death penalty off the table in order to receive information on the location of the bodies, Knox County prosecutor John C. Thatcher replied that he could not say whether Hoffman had confessed to the killings.

The county coroner will conduct autopsies and provide information to prosecutors, officials said.

Thatcher said he is not sure yet what charges the evidence will support, but he expects to take the case to the grand jury within four to six weeks.

A judge on Tuesday set a $1 million bond for Hoffman, who is accused of keeping Sarah bound and gagged in his basement, authorities said. The suspect has a November 23 preliminary hearing on the kidnapping charge, authorities said.

A message left Thursday night with public defender Bruce Malek was not immediately returned.

Barber said earlier this week that authorities were fortunate to find Sarah, but he said blood evidence found in Herrmann's home coupled with the amount of time the three have been missing had made the situation more serious.

The girl was at the Herrmann residence, but Barber did not indicate whether she saw the slayings.

The bodies were found about 20 miles from the Herrmann home.

Sarah Maynard was found in an early morning raid involving a SWAT team and was released from the hospital Monday, after being evaluated and treated for injuries that were not thought to be life-threatening, the sheriff said.

"Sarah is with family and is doing well." said Barber. "She is a very brave little girl," he said.

The disappearance of the three residents November 10 prompted a weeklong search throughout the rural region. But, in the end, the crucial information came down to Hoffman, Barber said.

"His information led to the location of the bodies," the sheriff said.

"We are a small community here. We became close to the victims' families," Barber said Thursday. "We have to take care of the survivors."

Police said Tuesday they did not believe Hoffman was working with an accomplice. When asked whether the incident was a home invasion, Barber said it was not, but added that "either they knew Hoffman or Hoffman made himself known to them."

Herrmann failed to report to work at a Dairy Queen in Mount Vernon, in central Ohio, on November 10, Barber told CNN affiliate WBNS. A deputy twice went to her home in Howard, about nine miles east of Mount Vernon, and saw her pickup there. No one answered the door, though lights were on in the home.

A Dairy Queen manager went into the home on November 11 and found blood inside, Barber told the station.

Asked about Hoffman's criminal record, Barber said he served prison time for an arson conviction in another state.

Dawna Davis, who lives next to Hoffman, said she did not trust him.

"He was just different. He was odd. He just climbed trees and watched us," she said about Hoffman.