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Published: 12/9/2010

Suspect in Mount Vernon deaths off suicide watch

COLUMBUS -- The only suspect in a kidnapping and triple-slaying in Mount Vernon, Ohio, is off suicide watch and maintaining a positive attitude in jail, his lawyer said Wednesday.

A grand jury that met this week did not indict Matthew Hoffman, but additional charges could be filed soon, defense attorney Bruce Malek said.

"I would certainly hope and expect that any indictment be brought at the earliest opportunity," Mr. Malek said. "It serves no purpose to delay that grand jury."

State and national media descended on Mount Vernon, about 50 miles east of Columbus, for a week as authorities searched for four people who disappeared from a nearby home Nov. 10.

On Nov. 14, one of the missing, 13-year-old Sarah Maynard, was found bound and gagged but alive in Hoffman's basement.

Four days later, using information provided by Hoffman through his attorneys, authorities found the dismembered bodies of Sarah's mother, Tina Herrmann; her brother, 11-year-old Kody Maynard; and Stephanie Sprang, a friend of Ms. Herrmann.

The county coroner said the three were stabbed multiple times and their dismembered remains were put in garbage bags and lowered into a hollow tree.

The remains of the family dog were also found in the tree.

Mr. Malek said he expects Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher to either call a special grand jury because of the complexity of the case or present it to a regularly scheduled grand jury early next month.

Mr. Malek said investigators are still obtaining reports and awaiting lab testing on evidence.

Hoffman had been placed on suicide watch soon after his Nov. 14 arrest.

A doctor associated with a local counseling center examined Hoffman the day before Thanksgiving and determined that he could be taken off suicide watch, Mr. Malek said.

The move was made a few days later.

Hoffman remains in a segregated cell but can wear a regular jail uniform, has access to books and television, and isn't under constant observation, Mr. Malek said.

"Under all the circumstances I think he's doing as well as one can," Mr. Malek said. "He's maintaining a positive attitude."

Mr. Malek wouldn't comment on whether, if Hoffman is charged with the slayings, he would ask that a trial be held elsewhere because of publicity. He acknowledged the high interest generated by the killings and Hoffman's arrest.

"I'm not sure there's a venue that doesn't have some knowledge of the case," Mr. Malek said.



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