Man charged over dismembered bodies horror

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The Independent US

A man suspected of killing three people whose dismembered bodies were found in a hollow tree has been charged with aggravated murder, burglary, kidnapping and rape.

But a death sentence is not being pursued at the wishes of the victims' families.

Instead unemployed tree-cutter Matthew Hoffman could face life without the possibility of parole if convicted of killing Tina Herrmann, her son Kody Maynard, and neighbour Stephanie Sprang, according to an indictment.

The indictment says Hoffman, 30, committed the killings while he burgled Ms Herrmann's house on November 10 near a lakeside community about 60 miles from Columbus, Ohio.

Hoffman was also charged with kidnapping a 13-year-old girl during the crime and later raping her at his home in Mount Vernon.

The crimes that Hoffman is charged with could carry a possible death penalty, but Knox County prosecutor John Thatcher said those charges were not pursued "in accordance with the wishes of the victims' families".

Hoffman is also charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly taking clothes and bedding from Ms Herrmann's house because he sought to remove them as possible evidence. He is further charged with abusing a corpse "because the victims' remains were not intact when recovered", Mr Thatcher said.

Hoffman's lawyer said the charges were not a surprise.

"There's really nothing in the indictment that came as a shock, based on what I had understood the state's position to be as to what had occurred," Bruce Malek said.

He declined to comment on Mr Thatcher's decision not to seek the death penalty.

Valerie Haythorn, a friend and co-worker of Ms Herrmann, said she was relieved charges had finally been filed.

"The best thing for him to do is just go in and plead guilty and be done with it," said Ms Haythorn, manager at the Dairy Queen restaurant where Ms Herrmann worked. "I'm glad that we're finally getting some kind of justice for the victims and the survivors."

It was Ms Haythorn's trip to Ms Herrmann's house the day after she failed to turn up for work that alerted authorities that a possible crime had occurred.

Authorities said an unusual amount of blood was found on November 11 in the home of 32-year-old Ms Herrmann, where Ms Sprang had been visiting, and the search for the four began.

The 13-year-old girl was found three days later in Hoffman's home. Authorities said he gave information that led investigators to the remains of the others in a wildlife preserve.

Authorities have not speculated on a motive. The sheriff has suggested that Hoffman, who spent six years in a Colorado prison for arson and other charges, had been watching the family for some time.