SHEBOYGAN - The 60-year-old woman who accused Dean Hoffmann of holding her captive was the first to testify in his trial this week.
"I thought I was going to die," the woman told prosecutors questioning her in front of a Sheboygan County jury on Tuesday morning, as the 59-year-old Hoffmann looked on.
From 2018 to 2019, Sheboygan County prosecutors charged Hoffmann, of Grafton, with 10 felonies including kidnapping the woman and then conspiring to murder her.
In January 2019, Hoffmann pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and five other charges due to mental disease or defect. He pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit first-degree intentional homicide and three other charges later that year.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Hoffmann at the woman's home in Waldo in September 2018 after a pizza delivery driver saw her mouthing “help me” when he delivered an order to the address, according to the criminal complaint.
Hoffmann forcibly kept woman in her home, she says
In August 2018, the woman left a home she was sharing with Hoffmann, whom she had met through an online dating service about a year and a half prior, to live with a relative until she was able to buy her own home in Waldo that September, she testified on Monday.
She did not tell Hoffmann she was moving or had found a place to live because she was afraid of him, but he unexpectedly walked in through her unlocked patio doors two days after she began moving in, the woman said.
She immediately yelled at Hoffmann to leave and that she would call the police, but he grabbed her phone out of her hand and kept her in the home for five or six hours, she said.
During that time, he used her phone to text her sons and others not to come over for a few days, stopped her from running out of the house at least once, tried to forcibly drag her upstairs and, for a period of time, tied her wrists and ankles together and put a rag in her mouth, she said.
The woman said Hoffmann threatened to get a gun from his car and kill them both, and that she suggested he tie her up in an attempt to get him to leave her alone so that she could jump out of the window or run out of the house.
The woman also said she punched Hoffmann in the groin, after which he punched her in the face, breaking her nose.
"I could fight all I want, but he's stronger," she said. "I was afraid, deathly afraid."
Hoffmann's attorney, John Schiro, said in his opening statement that Hoffmann has a "very different version of what happened," but will agree on some points, including that Hoffmann walked into the victim's home uninvited, grabbed her phone, punched her in the face, talked about killing himself and had a gun.
Prosecutors will try to show Hoffmann conspired to kill the woman from jail
In July 2019, a man formerly housed with Hoffmann in jail called the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department to report that Hoffmann was planning to murder the victim.
The witness told deputies Hoffmann had told him there was someone in his case that he needed gone and said he could pay $10,000 to get them "not breathing," according to the criminal complaint.
When the witness was released from jail, Hoffmann gave him a piece of paper with the woman's name and a Waldo address on it, according to the criminal complaint.
Deputies facilitated a visit and phone calls between Hoffmann and the witness in which they talked in code, with the witness saying he could get bike parts for Hoffmann and Hoffmann saying he could pay for the parts later.
Schiro said there is no evidence Hoffmann was talking about murder and said that he was talking in code to the witness about getting someone to go talk to the woman.
In addition, the witness has previously been "very uncooperative" with law enforcement, Schiro said.
"Look at (his) weird, weird story," Schiro said. "That just didn't happen."
If the jury convicts Hoffmann on all 10 counts, he could face well over a lifetime in prison — over 150 years combined — at sentencing.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Aug. 18 but may end sooner.
This article originally appeared on Sheboygan Press: Sheboygan County trial begins for Grafton man charged with kidnapping