Psychologists called the obsession with leaves bizarre and unique from other convicted murderers.
The walls in the bathroom of Matthew Hoffman's home in Mount Vernon, were covered with plastic bags filled with leaves.(Courtesy of Knox County Prosecutor's Office)
"It certainly suggests that he is likely to be mentally ill, mentally ill as compared to other killers who show up in the news like serial killers or psychopaths," Dr. N.G. Berrill, director of New York Center for Neuropsychology and Forensic Behavioral Science. "Serial killers, from professional point of view, they are not mentally ill. They have character disturbances, but they know what they're doing is wrong. They take too much pleasure, too much gratification to stop."
Berrill said that only Hoffman could explain why he appeared to stockpile leaves.
"It would take talking to him to find out what it means," Berrill said. "[Hoffman's delusions are] very elaborate delusions related to trees, what trees produce, being in and around on trees, putting people in trees."
Hoffman was an unemployed tree cutter. Neighbors said that there were only two trees near his home.
"He couldn't have possibly got that many leaves from that tree so he had to haul leaves from somewhere. I never saw him raking," neighbor Jeannette Columber said.
Neighbor Henderson Butcher described his interactions with Hoffman as friendly.
"He used to play around the trees around there a lot...throw ropes in trees and had like a hammock on there," Butcher said.
Other people said that Henderson would shoot squirrels to eat.
"He was killing the squirrels because he doesn't grocery shop," neighbor Kara Fowler said. "He would actually kill the squirrels and eat them."
Matthew Hoffman's Freezer Contained Only Popsicles and Squirrels
The released documents show that police taped hours of conversations with Hoffman saying little. It was a bad dream that prompted him to confess. Hoffman told an investigator that he'd had a dream about being at a food processing plant.
"Hoffman said he opened a trash bag at the food processing plant and saw cut up body parts and he got a knot in his stomach and it all came back to him," according to the case files.
Hoffman asked an investigator to allow him to write the location of the bodies on a piece of paper and then shoot him in a faked escape attempt.
When police said they wouldn't agree to his terms, he shut up for two more days before telling police where to find he bodies.
The home full of leaves is in foreclosure, according to court records. Wells Fargo Bank initiated the proceedings Jan. 28.