The News Journal from Wilmington, Delaware on July 24, 1988 · Page 6
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The News Journal from Wilmington, Delaware · Page 6

Wilmington, Delaware
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 24, 1988
Page 6
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A6 Sunday News Journal, Wilmington, Del., July 24, 1988 Mother's Continued from A 1 it Jenson said. "I'd say 'Dear God, protect us, 'cause I don't know what she's going to do next.'" The Hoffman family's large ranch-style home sits on a hillside of tangled old oaks near suburban Los Gatos. Earlier this month, Rose Hoffman sat under an umbrella on the pool-side deck, her back to a huge view of San Jose and the Silicon Valley, where the family tapped into the technology-fueled wealth of the new American dream. Gus Hoffman's 1966 Harley Davidson Sportster had rattled this family of six from the moment he bought it from a neighbor with money he earned at his father's machine shop, where he milled electronic parts six days a week for the blossoming computer industry. Rose and her husband, Gus Sr., were furious, she said, and Gus, who still lived at home, received an ultimatum: Sell it or move. "It's just the type of bike you don't want your son to have," Rose Hoffman said. Finally, though, the family agreed to let Gus keep the bike until he got it running. After working on the bike almost every night for a year, Hoffman finally kicked it over in June of 1978. Three weeks later, at about 5 on the afternoon of July 4, he again stomped on the kick-starter and wheeled the bike down the driveway of the family home, which at the time was a more modest San Jose house. The Hoffman children Do-reen, Bill and Elizabeth, who is the youngest at 23 were the kind of kids who, even as young adults, always called home if they wouldn't be joining the family for dinner, Rose Hoffman said. So when the family awoke July 5 and realized Gus hadn't come home, Gus Hoffman Sr. stayed home from work, and Rose Hoffman began calling around to track him down. Finally a neighbor's son who worked as a gas station attendant told her that on the evening of the 4th he had waited on two men on motorcycles and other "biker types" in a blue Monte Carlo sedan. "I guess they were real wise guys," Hoffman said, using a term that seems needlessly polite, given what she knows now. After the group left the station, the attendant said, he watched them pull up behind and alongside Hoffman at an intersection, TAKE AN EXTRA vt if v;i" we . As kf' PETITE CHIC Value $64, reg. $32 Our best-selling smaller-head-size wig. This flirtatious little wig is very versatile. Wear it with full, open curls or tame it down for a smoother more sophisticated look. With Perma-lift ,M for extra body, of course. YOUR CHOICE 10 - year pursuit leads V JsV then apparently chase him down the street. Rose Hoffman took that information to San Jose police, who promptly identified two of the men. But one couldn't be located, and the other said, " 'I don't know what you're talking bout,' " said Sgt. Jeff Ouimet, a San Jose Police Department detective who eventually took over the case. Rose Hoffman never believed that, nor, apparently, did the police, and within a few weeks the case was turned over to homicide. But lacking a body, the missing motorcycle or witnesses to what happened after the initial encounter, the department couldn't devote itself single-mindedly to the mystery. Hoffman could. Almost immediately, the Hoff-mans got a special phone installed for calls responding to the reward they offered, which jumped from $1,000 to $5,000 and then $10,000 an offer that still stands. Soon after, people began calling in to crack jokes about Gus Hoffman's disappearance or to say they knew where he was and would kill him if they didn't receive cash. "The leeches swept in on her," Ouimet said. Grasping at any clue, Hoffman visited bars frequented by San Jose area bikers and drug dealers. With choppers lined up outside and leather-clad characters with "big Buck knives" on their belts carousing inside, the bars "weren't executive clubs," said Doreen Simoneau, Hoffman's oldest daughter, who sometimes accompanied her mother. "You're so straight," a drunk biker sputtered one night, pushing his face close to Hoffman's. "Anyone could spot you in a minute." It had never occurred to her, Hoffman said, that she and her new Cadillac might stick out at the rowdy joints where they once watched, in Jenson's words, "a long-haired grisly biker type ... pull a girl out of a car by her hair and drag her into the bar." "1 did have a little gun," Hoffman said. "But it was never loaded." Over the years, Hoffman hired three private investigators, the first of whom called her and offered his services soon after she began posting flyers at liquor and convenience stores. The investigator, it turned out, was a Hell's Angels gofer, according to the police, and knew some of the suspects who, Hoffman said, "were too stupid to be Hell's An vasr wigs m a m m INTERNATIONAL , f 0399 ' gels. They wouldn't have them." After Hoffman said she had already dropped him, the first investigator phoned in 1980 or '81 to say he had found a young woman who knew about Gus Hoffman's murder. But before putting them Many people who might have shed light on Hoffman's disappearance were at first reluctant to do so out of fear of retaliation by those responsible. in touch with the woman, he told the Hoffmans "the horrendous story ... the unbelievable nightmare." Simoneau, the Hoffmans' oldest child, remembers the drive home after hearing the investigator's account. "I was afraid my dad was going to have a heart attack. ... They were as close to hysterical as you can get. ... Later I'd go through months and months of nightmares." When the investigator set up a meeting with the alleged witness, Gus Sr. couldn't bear to hear the story again. So Rose alone climbed into the back of a camper parked behind a Los Gatos restaurant. Hoffman said the woman spoke to her from behind a curtain draped between the cab and the .camper. "I can't really repeat the story. It's too sickening," Hoffman said . "The closest I can get to it is that my son was tortured for five days. What the girl said is that they just wanted to teach him a lesson. What they did to my son I can't even say that but she said that we'll never find him." "It was just so very bad what she told us," she continued, staring down at the patio table. "It was sexual abuse and torture. And also ... there was supposed to be a girl there taking pictures. Or someone. They wanted to humiliate him." Hoffman looked up and added, almost pleading, "But now the police are telling me that that's not a true story. ... Did they tell you that?" In fact, the detectives believe only parts of the story she pieced together over the years are true. In February '1987, almost nine years after Hoffman disappeared, the department handed the case to two night detectives. The partners, Jeff Ouimet, 37, and Jack L. Baxter, 44, found themselves devoting more time to the Gus Hoffman mystery, poking EVERYDAY LOW PRICE THAT OVER 60 OFF LIST - 1 f TOUCHN' GO Value $68, reg. $33 Our number 1 seller-Touch 'N Go. These short, modern silhouette features a cropped look in back, contoured nape and Perma-lift ,M for body. to arrests around in the parts of town Rose Hoffman already knew well. This world, they said, was sufficiently violent and often sadistic that potential witnesses were at first too terrified to testify. But because of the initial leads Hoffman had developed, "we could see the light at the end of the tunnel," Ouimet said. After traveling around the country to interview more than 50 witnesses, in June the detectives arrested Michael Hodges, 36, and Richard Dollar, 32, who last week entered innocent pleas to murder charges at a preliminary hearing and remain in the Santa Clara County Jail on $1 million bail. John Michael Stelle, 47 known as Sluggo or Slug because of the "nice tattoo of a banana slug on his arm or chest" remains at large, Baxter said. A fourth suspect was Michael Stevenson, a thin, long-haired man shown posing shirtless with a .357-caliber Magnum in one photo, the detectives said. Stevenson, who was killed June 19, 1986, was the one whom potential witnesses feared most, the detectives said. According to news clips, Stevenson was arrested in 1976 for the alleged kidnapping of a Find A reaf Place o Rent "OT UU LAO I SAVE YOUR HOME rent? Call Nfaws he will pay your delinquent! Classified 573 - riorrgage payments. piace your ciassmed ad. 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Attorneys for the suspecte discount the case against their clients. James McNair Thompson, attorney for suspect Richard Dollar, said, "The prosecution doesn t have a body. No physical evidence at all. ... They have some statements from people no one would rely very heavily on, and that's about it." The detectives disagree. With Stevenson dead, and almost a decade gone by, witnesses who in the beginning were too frightened to talk, are now speaking up, they said. And the story they have pieced together from this testi- Should Your Be In A Nursing Home? erhaps Mot. The Personal needs of your loved one will determine the type of care they require. PROTECTIVE RETIREMENT is an active, individualized lifestyle, designed for those who desire security and guidance in their daily living. Nursing, medical and rehabilitative services are available when needed. 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The detectives now believe that the suspects encountered Gus Hoffman at an intersection on the evening of July 4, and either chased him, with one of them "swinging a chain at him," 0r they simply persuaded him to fol-low them to their house to talk about his bike. "They parked the bikes in front," Baxter said, "and two of the guys walked Hoffman's bike into the garage while he was standing there in the street." Patting Hoffman on the back, one of the suspects took him by the arm, "kind of smiled and said, 'Come on in and have a beer. ... We're all pals here.' ... People said he looked like he was quite frightened and didn't want to go in." As they understand what happened, Baxter said, "The kid was physically abused ... eventually killed, and his body was dismembered and disposed of. Placed in garbage bags and taken to an unknown location," or locations. The bike was sold part by part. Although she is heartened by the arrest of two suspects, Rose Hoffman still wants to find the remains of her son. That, and to keep what is left of her family intact, she said. "We're ... almost normal," she said. "We'll never be really happy But we can still live." Loved One . rr j i iiuns y: what Rose Hoffman learned earlv call Nnj-.iru.r lfeshtyde cor, 3BR brck th, fadn' PrkM Dun Pk. new root, ki t ww carp fhruout, etel Classified 573-CASH to place your classified ad. WATERFRONT COMMUNITY new 14x70, 3BRlV2b, set up on a nice tot, also Inds. WD, ca, dshwshr, fully flim'ri. let WT Inl rant mJl V range. CsJX-0000. i iMtr' Have a ive a oiace vou want ti sek? Call News-Journii uasaoted 69-CAim i place your dasslfktdi ad. UUV-WUU. 343 Homes Suburban 347 DELAWARE AVE. AREA 2BR, IB comer unit, parquet ftrs. $51,500. Cal 000-0000 v.. BY OWNER-Elsmera Grdt TH, 3BR, IB, gar, WM FIFTH FLOOR-2 BR, 2 bath, balcony, lux. elevator bldg, doorman, prlv. parking space ind in price. 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