MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (CBS/WBNS/AP) Hundreds of people from the tiny central Ohio town of Mount Vernon attended a vigil Thursday night after the news that the bodies of a missing mother, her 11-year-old son and a family friend had been found stuffed into garbage bags and hidden in a hollow tree.
The discovery came Thursday, four days after authorities found Sarah Maynard, the mother's 13-year-old daughter bound and gagged, but alive, in the basement of a home about a 15-mile drive from the wildlife area where the bodies were discovered.
The vigil that had been planned near the family's home to support search teams became, instead, a memorial.
A seemingly endless stream of people poured into the area.
"I just feel numb," Morgan Durfee told CBS affiliate WBNS. "I've been crying all day. It's so hard."
The question on the minds of many: "Why?" Authorities couldn't provide the answer amid the ongoing investigation.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber said investigators were led to the bodies by Matthew Hoffman, an unemployed tree-trimmer accused of kidnapping the girl and keeping her for nearly four days in the basement of his home in Mount Vernon, about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.
"We were optimistic a few days ago that maybe there was a remote chance that these folks were possibly still alive," the sheriff said.
Sarah Maynard, her mother Tina Herrmann, her 11-year-old brother Kody Maynard, and family friend Stephanie Sprang were reported missing after Herrmann failed to show up for work at a local Dairy Queen on Nov. 10.
Barber said the three dead were killed in Herrmann's home in Howard, though he did not say how, and that Hoffman gave investigators information through his attorneys that led them to the bodies, which were removed after part of the tree was cut away.
"This is probably the saddest day in Knox County history that I can remember," Prosecutor John Thatcher said. "As elated as we were Sunday morning when Sarah was rescued, I think the tragedy today is just devastating."
Barber declined to speculate on a motive, and it was unclear how well Hoffman knew the four. The sheriff has suggested that he had been watching them.