Image: Knox County Sheriff's deputies and investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation process evidence at the residence of 30-year-old Matthew Hoffman
Jay Laprete  /  AP file
Knox County Sheriff's deputies and investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation process evidence at the residence of Matthew Hoffman, after his Nov. 14, 2010 arrest. In January, he pleaded guilty in the deaths of three people, and to kidnapping and raping a 13-year-old girl.
updated 2/9/2011 2:48:13 PM ET 2011-02-09T19:48:13

Leaves littered the floor and filled bags lined the bathroom in the home of an unemployed tree-cutter who admitted killing two women and a boy and stuffing their remains into a hollow tree. He also kept squirrels alongside frozen treats in his freezer, newly released case records show.

SWAT officers who raided the Mount Vernon home of Matthew Hoffman on Nov. 14 found leaves piled 3 feet high on the living room floor, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday, citing detectives' notes and other documents in the case file obtained through a public-records request.

    1. Hoffman withdrew $1,200 hours before death: sources

      Philip Seymour Hoffman withdrew a total of $1,200 from an ATM at a supermarket near his New York City apartment the night before he was found lifeless in his bathroom with a syringe still in his left arm, sources told NBC News.

    2. NYC mayor will skip St. Pat's parade over gay ban
    3. Indiana man back home 18 years after abduction
    4. 32 states in the path of another wild storm
    5. Judge vows quick ruling on Va. marriage ban

After Hoffman was taken away in handcuffs, detectives found a kidnapped 13-year-old girl alive in the basement, bound on a bed made of leaves. Back upstairs, they discovered bagged leaves hanging in three floor-to-ceiling rows on a living room wall, and a bathroom crammed with more than 110 bags of leaves attached to the walls. The bags covered the mirror and the wall behind the toilet.

The kitchen freezer held little more than two unskinned squirrels and red Popsicles, according to the records.

Officers returned to the pile of leaves in the living room, feeling around in it with a stick.

"So much runs through your mind: What if someone is hiding under that pile?" the Dispatch quoted Mount Vernon police detective Craig Feeney as saying. "Or in this case, I thought, 'Is that where he's hiding the bodies?'"

No bodies turned up in the house. Four days later, using information provided by Hoffman through his attorneys, authorities found the tree and the dismembered remains of Tina Herrmann, her 11-year-old son Kody Maynard, and her friend Stephanie Sprang. In court and in his newly released confession, Hoffman portrayed the killings as the result of a burglary gone wrong at Herrmann's home.

He pleaded guilty last month in the three deaths, and to kidnapping and raping the girl.

  1. Most popular

Neighbors had said he often collected leaves on walks through a park near his home in Mount Vernon, a central Ohio community about 40 miles north of Columbus. Detective Feeney said the way the leaves were arranged in the home suggested Hoffman may have been planning to burn it down, with the leaves as fuel for the fire.

A friend and co-worker of Herrmann, Valerie Haythorn, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the leaves obviously raise questions about Hoffman's mental state.

"He probably would have been better with a cabin in the woods somewhere than living in the middle of town," Haythorn said.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch,

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments