Image: Matthew J. Hoffman
Jay Laprete  /  AP
Matthew Hoffman, 30, in Mount Vernon, was arrested on one count of kidnapping at his home in Mount Vernon in connection with the abduction of a 13-year-old girl. The teen was found safe on Sunday.
updated 11/15/2010 7:54:29 AM ET 2010-11-15T12:54:29

A 13-year-old girl missing for days was found bound and gagged but alive in a basement Sunday, and authorities hoped a man charged with kidnapping her might lead them to her mother, brother and another woman who disappeared with her.

Matthew J. Hoffman, 30, was arrested at his Mount Vernon home, where Sarah Maynard was found, Knox County Sheriff David Barber said. He said the girl was hospitalized in good condition but would give no details and did not say if she had been sexually abused.

Barber did not say what led investigators to Hoffman's home, which is about 10 miles from the home of Sarah's family. He said authorities hoped Hoffman would give them information leading to Sarah's mother, Tina Herrmann, her 10-year-old brother, Kody, and Herrmann's 41-year-old friend Stephanie Sprang.

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The four vanished Wednesday in a case that was all the more alarming because an unusual amount of blood was found at Herrmann's home in Howard.

"We were hopeful of finding more than one of the missing people" in Hoffman's house, Barber said. "But the information we had was that Sarah would definitely be found in that house."

Authorities believe the girl had been "under the control" of Hoffman since Wednesday, when she and her brother last attended school, the sheriff said. He did not know if Hoffman was connected to either Herrmann or Sprang, but said he is not the ex-boyfriend of either woman.

"At this time, whether he's connected to the family or whether he connected himself to the family ... a lot of that remains to be seen as the investigation continues," Barber said.

Authorities had talked to the girl but would not release any details because the investigation is ongoing, Barber said.

More charges expected
Hoffman was charged with kidnapping, and Barber said more charges are expected. Neighbors has said they saw a body bag being taken from Hoffman's home about 40 miles north of Columbus, but the sheriff said that was "absolutely false."

"We have no one that we're aware of who is deceased," Barber said. "So we're still treating this as a missing persons case."

Authorities blocked off about a half block on either side of the home as they investigated early Sunday afternoon, keeping people from entering or leaving about a half dozen homes. But by late afternoon, the only sign of investigative activity was red and white evidence tape sealing the front door of the home closed.

The two-story house with tan vinyl siding, green shutters and a large television antenna on the roof sits in a middle-income neighborhood with two bars within a block away. Holly grows through the weathered slats of the porch. A sheet covered one window, and blinds were pulled down on the rest.

Dawna Davis, 35, who lives next door to Hoffman, said she told her children to stay indoors when he was out. She said he moved in alone about a year ago and that a girlfriend lived with him temporarily with her son until about a month ago.

"He would sit and listen to us up in a tree. He had a hammock and he would sit there and listen to us," she said. "He was just different. He was very different."

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Davis said Hoffman did tree trimming work and had built a fire Wednesday night in his backyard, where there was a mound of ashes Sunday with tree parts on it. She said he walked to a nearby park with a lake almost every day and was a "nature person" who collected leaves.

Herrmann was reported missing Wednesday when she did not show up for work at a local Dairy Queen. Barber has said blood indicating an injury had been found in her home, where Sprang's vehicle was in the driveway.

Herrmann's pickup truck had been found Thursday night near the Kenyon College campus, leading to a lockdown at the school.

Hoffman was being held in the county jail, where personnel would not comment on whether he had an attorney. A bond hearing was expected to be held Monday. Attempts to reach relatives of Hoffman and of Sarah were unsuccessful Sunday.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Man held in Ohio family’s disappearance

  1. Closed captioning of: Man held in Ohio family’s disappearance

    >>> in ohio as police search for her still missing mother, brother and friend. peter alexander is in howard, ohio with more for us. peter good morning.

    >> reporter: this is a bizarre and frightening kidnapping. that young girl sarah maynard lives in this house with her family. she's in good condition, she's being taken care of at a local hospital, but still missing, her mom, her brother and a family friend. and while the search for them is going to begin again in a few hours from now, the suspect is expected in court. in the basement of this rural ohio home a stunning discovery. 13-year-old sarah maynard found bound and gagged and unable to call for help when s.w.a.t. team members raided the home on sunday. hoffman is key to unraveling this awful mystery, that he can lead them to sarah 's mother, 10-year-old kody and stephany sprang, a family friend.

    >> at this time, we don't know if he's connected to the family or whether he connected himself to the family, a lot of that remains to be seen as the investigation continues.

    >> reporter: as doctors care for the young girl , investigators are building a timeline. last wednesday, co-workers became concerned when her mother didn't show up to work at this dairy queen . the next day, sheriff's deputies found blood inside the mother's home.

    >> there's an unusual amount of blood in that house.

    >> reporter: the mother's truck was later found abandoned, her credit cards and cell phone haven't been used since the family disappeared. p( this weekend, volunteers and sheriff's deputies combed wooded areas, scoured this lake and even used a plane equipped with infrared technology as part of their search. hoffman is described as a loner who moved into the neighborhood last year. this morning, sarah maynard is safe and this community hopes the same is true for her mother, brother and their family friend. and the sheriff says it's still unclear if matthew hoffman knew any of the victims. he's been cooperative with police as you noted meredith, for 24 hours since he was first arrested. as for that 13-year-old sarah maynard she's in good condition.


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