DENVER
11/16/2010 12:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Matthew J. Hoffman, Ohio Kidnap Suspect, Was In Prison For Colo. Arson

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio man accused of keeping a 13-year-old girl bound and gagged in his basement spent six years in a Colorado prison for setting a fire to cover up a burglary and had been released from parole only a month ago.

The teenager's mother and brother, along with a friend of her mother's, remained missing Tuesday after authorities searched a lake and park near the suspect's home. Authorities offered little hope that they would be found alive but planned to continue their search.

Authorities said more charges were expected against Matthew J. Hoffman, who was expected to appear at a bond hearing via video link Tuesday afternoon. It wasn't clear how well Hoffman, 30, knew the teenager or the three missing people, but Knox County Sheriff David Barber suggested the defendant had been watching them.

"They knew Hoffman or Hoffman made himself known to them; he acquainted himself with the family whether they knew he was acquainting himself with them or not," Barber said Monday at a news conference at which he also outlined the "possibility that these folks are dead."

The sheriff said Hoffman does not yet have a lawyer.

Police on Sunday rescued 13-year-old Sarah Maynard from the basement of Hoffman's home, then began a search of a nearby lake for Maynard's mother, 32-year-old Tina Herrmann; the woman's 10-year-old son, Kody Maynard; and her 41-year-old friend, Stephanie Sprang.

Sprang's father, Steve Thompson, said Tuesday morning that he's staying optimistic.

"We know they are alive and we will find them eventually," Thompson said in an interview with CBS' "The Early Show," expressing hope that the three are tied up somewhere and will soon free themselves and resurface.

Hoffman was sitting nearby last week when police recovered the missing family's truck in central Ohio, Barber said.

His mother and stepfather live less than a mile away from Herrmann's home in a lakeside community north of Columbus. Hoffman last lived there two years ago, his mother said.

Thompson said he did not know Hoffman and had no idea how he became connected with his daughter and Herrmann.

"I don't think either one of the girls would have been really talking with him or just hanging out with him," Thompson said on NBC's "Today."

Hoffman was sentenced to eight years in prison in Colorado in 2001 for arson and other charges.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today of Steamboat Springs, Colo., reported Tuesday that he pleaded guilty to setting a fire to cover up a burglary he had committed the day before at a townhouse where he had installed some plumbing fixtures. The fire destroyed two townhouses, damaged eight others and forced the evacuation of 16 people.

"I just want to say that I did have concern for the people in the condos," Hoffman said at his sentencing, according to the newspaper. "Now that I think back about it, I would not have done it."

Authorities allowed Hoffman to move to Ohio in 2007 after he was released on parole, which ended about a month ago. He had paid about $4,800 toward $2.06 million in restitution, Colorado court system spokesman Jon Sarche said.

Authorities first questioned Hoffman on Thursday, the day after Herrmann failed to show up for work at Dairy Queen. Police found him sitting in his car near a bike trail opposite property owned by Kenyon College, near where Herrmann's pickup truck was found, Barber said.

The sheriff didn't say what later led investigators to Hoffman's two-story, tan-sided house in Mount Vernon, where authorities spent Monday scouring bike paths and riverbanks. A search team pulled a car and an SUV from a lake near Hoffman's home, but investigators say they're not likely related to the disappearances.

Barber declined to comment on whether Sarah was assaulted or the details of her capture. She was released from a hospital and was staying with relatives.

"She is a very brave little girl," Barber said. "Under the circumstances, a 13-year-old girl being held captive for four days by a total stranger ... I would call her the epitome of bravery."

At the Columbus, Ohio, home of the girl's paternal grandmother, Patricia Baker, a younger woman answered the door on Tuesday and declined to comment.

June Chadwell, 66, who said she had lived across the street from Baker for 37 years, said she had seen no sign of the girl but said the child's father, Larry Maynard, lived at the home with Baker and that he was seen sitting on a deck outside the home on Monday.

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Associated Press writers Doug Whiteman, JoAnne Viviano and Anne Sanner in Columbus, John Seewer in Toledo, and P. Solomon Banda in Denver contributed to this report.