Person of interest in 4 Ohio deaths in custody

  • Associated Press
September 3, 2014

BUCYRUS, Ohio – A person of interest in the beatings of four men found dead in separate homes in the same Ohio community has been taken into custody but not been charged, authorities said Wednesday.

Police say the deaths in Bucyrus, about 65 miles north of Columbus, were likely related but they don’t know if the men knew each other.

Two bodies were found Monday. Authorities said a man came into the police station and led officers to two more bodies Tuesday morning.

Crawford County Sheriff Scott Kent, whose office is assisting local police, said Wednesday that the man gave some information as to why the killings occurred, but authorities weren’t releasing the details.

“One (slaying) can be complicated. Four is overwhelming,” Kent said.

Wednesday evening, prosecutor Matthew Crall’s office said 41-year old Donald Hoffman, of Bucyrus, was in custody and described him as a person of interest in the slayings. The office said in a news release that Hoffman was being held on a probation violation and a preliminary hearing has been set for him for Thursday morning.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Hoffman had an attorney. Calls to the Crawford County Jail on Wednesday night went to an automated answering service.

The town of 12,000 is unaccustomed to violent crime but battling a heroin problem. Some residents said after the slayings that they were worried about their safety.

Crawford County Coroner Michael Johnson said Billy Jack Chatman, 55, and Freelin Hensley, 67, were found dead Monday. The next day the body of 65-year-old Darrell Lewis was found in his apartment and the body of 65-year-old Gerald Lee Smith’s body was found in an apartment in the same complex.

Johnson said the cause of death in the four homicides hasn’t been determined yet. He said a preliminary autopsy report would be available Thursday.

“There was trauma to all of them,” Johnson said.

He said authorities believe the slayings are related “because of the sequence and time, and appearance of the scene.” He would not be more specific.

Crall said Tuesday that charges would be filed soon. Police said it could be as early as Thursday.



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