An 18-year-old Suitland woman, married only four months, was charged yesterday with paying four men $100 to help her and her lover kill her husband and dump his bound and weighted body in a creek in rural Prince George's County.
The victim, Michael Hoffmann, a 20-year-old clerk at Andrews Air Force Base, was found in one foot of water in a creek near Aquasco Tuesday night. He had been shot in the chest and head, and his body was bound with wire and blocks of concrete.
According to police, Hoffmann's wife, Donna, had driven him early Monday evening to the isolated area where five men were waiting. Police said the victim was forced from the car and shot to death in the presence of all six persons.
Arrested and charged with murder were Mrs. Hoffmann; John Penkert III, 25, of Brandywine; Stephen Troese, 18, Michael Naquin, 21, and Jeffrey Scott Wittaker, 18, all of Upper Marlboro, and George Harvey, 22, of Aquasco.
Police said Penkert was Hoffmann's lover and helped her in slaying her husband. The four other men were paid $100 to participate in the slaying, police said.
The events that led to the arrests in the slaying began at 11 p.m. Monday when Donna Hoffmann called police from her Suitland apartment and said her husband was missing. She told police her husband was upset when he returned from work so they went shopping. On the way home, she said, her husband dropped her off at her mother's home in nearby Capitol Heights. He had promised to be back in 10 minutes, she said, but he never returned.
Her father then drove her home, she said. Once inside her apartment, she told police, she found a note written by her husband indicating that he had been kidnaped and would be slain. She said she then called the police.
A homicide detective who went to Hoffmann's home determined that the note was not written by her husband but by Hoffmann herself, police said. During questioning, she told the detective that she had seen a note in the car with the name of a road in Aquasco.
"That," said homicide Lt. Robert Miller, "was the first break in the case."
On Tuesday, detectives drove to Aquasco, where they found bloodstains about one block from a barn on Aquasco Farm Road. They searched the area and discovered Hoffmann's body in Black Swamp Creek.
That was about 5:30 p.m. Police had arrested Donna Jean Hoffmann several hours earlier, while questioning her in the Forestville police station. "Her story," said Miller, "didn't add up."
At a bond hearing in district court in Upper Marlboro yesterday, prosecutor Charles S. Kiess alleged that Donna Jean Hoffmann's boyfriend, Penkert, had fired the handgun that killed Michael Hoffmann. Penkert, 25, a construction worker, was held at the county detention center in lieu of $25,000 bond.
Penkert was given the gun by Stephen Joseph Troese Jr., 18, of Upper Marlboro, according to court testimony. Troese, the son of a prominent lawyer in the county, Stephen Troese, was released on a $25,000 bond.
A partner in the elder Troese's law firm, Charles Dukes, told Judge Silvania Woods that his partner had more than $1 million in assets in Prince George's County and would post bond for his son. The elder Troese sat in a front row of the courtroom, his shoulders stooped, looking haggard.
Michael Naquin of Upper Marlboro, the prosecutor said, was "aware of what was going to happen and assisted in disposing of the body." He is being held in lieu of $25,000 bond.
According to Marty Smith, a friend, Penkert has been going out with Donna Hoffmann for about two years. Smith said that Penkert had lived at home with his mother in Upper Marlboro until several months ago and spent considerable time with Hoffmann.
An official of Rockingham Construction in Upper Marlboro, where Penkert had worked since 1979, said that Penkert had a girlfriend named Donna who had come in to pick up his paycheck several times.
According to police, Donna Hoffmann met with Penkert and the four other suspects last Friday to plan the slaying. The $100 was handed over at the meeting.
Reconstructing the incident, police believe that Hoffmann and her husband left their apartment at 5048 Silver Hill Ct. in Suitland Monday afternoon and drove to Aquasco. When they arrived she parked their car, a Chevrolet Camaro, behind a barn on Aquasco Farm Road, and the two got out. c
Suddenly, at least one man appeared, armed with a handgun, and told her husband to start walking. After Hoffmann, his wife and the assailant had walked about one block, they were met by four other men. Hoffmann, who understood what was about to happen and why, said "I love you," to his wife, according to one police source.
After Hoffmann was shot, the group allegedly left his body and went to obtain wire and concrete blocks. Police said they later returned, put the body in the car trunk and drove to Black Swamp Creek at the end of Aquasco Farm Road where they attached the wire and concrete blocks to the body and dumped it into the creek. Police said the creek was about five feet deep at the time but later receded, leading to the discovery of Hoffmann's body.