Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Call ends 20-year murder mystery

Suspect turns himself in for 1980 shooting

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A 20-year murder mystery unraveled over the weekend, starting with one sentence: “I killed somebody.”

Michael Profitt
        The Friday telephone call finally uncovered a suspect in the 1980 killing of Betty Hoffmann, a 55-year-old Greenhills secretary who was shot while walking her dog. A man officials say she did not know stands charged with her murder.

        Michael Profitt, 39, called the Kentucky State Police post near where he lives in London, Ky., on Friday and made the statement. Troopers picked him up at his house and began hours of questioning.

        “He called us himself and said, "I killed somebody,'” said Detective Sgt. David Biggerstaff of the London post. “That's all he said.”

        Neither the Kentucky authorities nor Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis revealed the motive they think led Mr. Profitt to shoot Mrs. Hoffmann. They will say the two were not friends or even acquaintances. Mr. Profitt lived in the Winton Woods area at the time.

        As for what led him to call, they say the motive appears to be simple — two decades' worth of guilt.

        “He wanted to clear his conscience,” Sheriff Leis said.

        Mrs. Hoffmann, who worked in pharmacology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, was walking in Winton Woods park when she was hit in the chest with a single bullet. A bicyclist found her body, her Great Dane, Clinton, still by her side. She was less than a half mile from her home.

        Mrs. Hoffmann and her husband, John, had moved back to Cincinnati from Texas a couple of months before she was killed. Mr. Hoffmann has since died, former neighbors of the couple said.

        “I remember how we all felt,” said Jeff Behrendt, who still lives on Jewel Lane near the former Hoffmann home. “We were all really shocked that something like that happened.

        “It's good to hear that something's finally been finished up in the case.”

        Mr. Profitt remained behind bars in Kentucky Mon day afternoon. He likely will stay there until a Hamilton County grand jury hears the case, said Steve Barnett, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. The process of extraditing him to Cincinnati would start after the indictment, he said.

        Deputies sort through old, unsolved homicides occasionally, Mr. Barnett said, and had done so several times with Mrs. Hoffmann's death.

        “But it was nowhere near our radar screen,” he said. “Not until he called.”


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