Ohio man charged in brutal killings of four men

Ohio man charged in brutal killings of four men
Donald Hoffman, 41, is being held has been charged with four counts of aggravated murder for beating and strangling four elderly Ohio residents to death earlier this week. (Crawford County Sheriff's Office)

A 41-year-old Ohio man was charged with aggravated murder on Thursday morning in connection with the killings of four men who were strangled or beaten to death earlier this week, officials said.

Bucyrus Police Chief David Koepke told the Los Angeles Times that Donald Hoffman was charged in the killings of Billy Jack Chatman, 55; Freelin Hensley, 67; Gerald Lee Smith, 65; and Darrell Lewis, 65, all of whom were found dead in the sleepy northern Ohio town on Monday and Tuesday.


Hoffman lived with Smith, and the other three victims may have been acquaintances in the small community, Koepke said.

It remains unclear if the deaths are connected.

"The only connection is the fact that we have one individual charged with responsibility for the four deaths," Koepke said.

Crawford County Medical Examiner Michael Johnson also released the results of autopsies on each victim Thursday morning. Smith and Hensley were strangled and beaten to death, according to Johnson's report, while Lewis was strangled.

Chatman died after suffering blunt force injuries to the head. Koepke told The Times that Hoffman used an "object" during the beatings but declined to comment further.

Hoffman approached Bucyrus police earlier this week after officers found Chatman and Hensley's bodies, Koepke said. While Koepke declined to comment directly on what Hoffman said to police, he did say that information provided by the suspect led to the discovery of Smith and Lewis' bodies earlier this week.

Koepke declined to comment on a motive in the slayings. Hoffman had been arrested several times in the last decade, for "a mixture of misdemeanors and felonies," Koepke said.

Bucyrus, a town of roughly 12,000, had not seen killings of this magnitude since 1994, when three people were killed and three others were seriously wounded in a spray of gunfire, Koepke said.

Hoffman remains at the Crawford County jail in lieu of $10-million bond, Koepke said, adding that the suspect could face the death penalty if convicted.

A grand jury will begin hearing testimony on Monday.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT on Twitter for breaking news.