Ohio man pleads not guilty to 4 murders, had been helped by victim days before

In each slaying, a grand jury indicted Hoffman — known as 'Big Don' — on two counts of aggravated murder and single counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and felonious assault.

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    Donald Hoffman is seen in this undated photo provided by the Crawford County Ohio Sheriff's Office.
    Crawford County Ohio Sheriff's Office/AP/File
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 A man has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder, robbery and other charges in the deaths of four men at their homes in a small Ohio city.

Donald Hoffman is charged on 21 counts for the slayings in Bucyrus (byoo-SY'-rus). Some counts include specifications for a potential death penalty.

The 41-year-old Hoffman wore an orange jail outfit and handcuffs Monday in Crawford County court. He's jailed on $10 million bond. His attorney declined to comment.

One of four men found slain at their homes had sought help two days earlier for the man now charged in the killings, according to police records obtained by The Associated Press.

Billy Jack Chatman told Bucyrus police two days before he was found dead that he had called an ambulance for Donald Hoffman against Hoffman's wishes after the man collapsed on his floor, according to documents obtained through a public records request.

The records show Hoffman, 41, had entered Chatman's house Aug. 30 bloody and reeking of alcohol, the apparent victim of an assault.

After Hoffman fell down, Chatman "thought he may need an ambulance so he called" despite Hoffman asking him not to tell anyone about the assault, the report said.

According to audio of the emergency call, Hoffman had told Chatman he was beaten by about eight people and Chatman wasn't sure Hoffman was breathing.

The bodies of Chatman, 55, and another man were found Sept. 1. Two other bodies were found the next day.

The other victims were Freelin Hensley, 67; Darrell Lewis, 65; and Gerald Lee Smith, 65, whose first name a prosecutor says is spelled Jerald.

In each slaying, a grand jury indicted Hoffman — known as "Big Don" — on two counts of aggravated murder and single counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and felonious assault. The 21 counts also included a single charge of abuse of a corpse. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Friends and relatives have said at least some of the slain men knew one another and Hoffman — as poker or drinking buddies, through mutual acquaintances or perhaps by proximity in where they lived.

It is unclear whether Hoffman ever knew Chatman had called the ambulance to pick him up.

Police questioned Hoffman about the day after he'd been delivered to the emergency room by the ambulance Chatman called, according to the report.

An officer "asked if he knew what had happened and Hoffman said that he did not."

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