Killer of 4, acquaintances give conflicting statements on whether others knew of Ohio deaths



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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A quadruple murderer and two of his acquaintances gave conflicting statements about whether anyone knew about his killings before he confessed to police, according to newly released police records.

Donald Hoffman pleaded guilty and is serving life in prison for the slayings that he said occurred as he was on a cocaine binge last year in the small city of Bucyrus.

Hoffman, 41, told police that before the final slaying he admitted to killings in comments to a woman and man who were drinking and using cocaine with him. He said he wasn't sure whether they believed him or cared.

In police interviews, the man denied knowing about the slayings, and the woman said Hoffman once returned home with blood on him, but it was because he'd been beaten up.

Other information obtained by police raised questions about whether the two knew more than they let on, but authorities say only Hoffman was charged because he acknowledged acting alone and there was no corroborated evidence that anyone else had knowledge that would have prevented a death.

The woman mentioned by Hoffman had stayed at his home, where one of the bodies was found in the basement. Days later, during a recorded call with her jailed boyfriend, she said sleeping in the same place as a dead man was "not cool."

"I'm going through enough, that's why I haven't been normal on the phone the last couple days because I knew," she said, according to police notes on the conversation. "I was gonna go talk to the police but then I was like no, I'm not gonna put myself in that situation."

The other man who had visited Hoffman's home told police the pair thought Hoffman might have been robbing people but didn't suspect murder.

But his statement was contradicted by a female friend of his. She told police that the man told her he saw Hoffman covered in blood and believed Hoffman had killed someone but didn't have proof.

Hoffman said he turned himself in after seeing one victim's relatives in a newspaper photo. He detailed each murder and said he was driven by a combination of drugs, money and anger.

The victims were strangled, beaten or both. Authorities identified them as Billy Jack Chatman, 55; Freelin Hensley, 67; Darrell Lewis, 65; and Jerald Smith, 65, whose relatives said he sometimes spelled his name Gerald.

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