Man indicted in 4 separate slayings in Ohio town
Sep. 08, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man was indicted Monday on aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and other charges in the deaths of four men found at their residences in the small city of Bucyrus over a two-day period.
In each slaying, a grand jury indicted Donald Hoffman on two counts of aggravated murder and single counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and felonious assault, according to a statement from the Crawford County prosecutor's office. The 21 counts also included a single charge of abuse of a corpse.
The 41-year-old Bucyrus man has been jailed since last week on $10 million bond. A message seeking comment was left for Hoffman's appointed attorney.
The aggravated murder charges come with specifications for a potential death penalty.
"The nature and the seriousness of the charges leave little other choice other than to seek the death penalty," prosecutor Matthew Crall wrote in a statement. He said he met with each victim's family and considered their wishes in his decisions.
Two men were discovered dead Sept. 1 in their homes in Bucyrus, a city of about 12,000 residents roughly 65 miles north of Columbus. Two more bodies were found the following day after police say Hoffman walked into the department alone and provided officers with information.
A coroner determined each man was beaten, strangled or both. Authorities have said investigators talked with Hoffman for hours, but they haven't discussed details of those conversations or other aspects of the investigation as they worked to establish a timeline for the slayings and determine a motive.
Police said the victims included Billy Jack Chatman, 55; Freelin Hensley, 67; and Darrell Lewis, 65. Police said the fourth victim was Gerald Lee Smith, 65, but the prosecutor said Smith's first name was Jerald.
Friends and relatives say at least some of the slain men knew one another and Hoffman — as poker or drinking buddies, through mutual acquaintances or perhaps by proximity in where they lived.
The town is unaccustomed to such violent crime but doesn't shy from discussing what residents and police describe as prevalent drug problems, especially with heroin.
Crall has said Hoffman's criminal record includes assault, menacing and theft.