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Man charged with four beating deaths in small Ohio town

By Kim Palmer

(Reuters) - An Ohio man has been charged with aggravated murder in the beating deaths of four men found in separate houses in a small central Ohio town this week, authorities said on Thursday.

Donald Hoffman, 41, had been taken into custody on Tuesday as a person of interest in the deaths of the men in Bucyrus, Ohio, and was being held on a probation violation, the Crawford County Sheriff's Office said.

Hoffman was charged with four counts of aggravated murder and appeared in court on Thursday via a video link, a clerk for the Crawford County courts said.

The four men were found dead on Monday and Tuesday. They have been identified as Billy Jack Chatman, 55, Freelin Hensley, 67, Darrell Lewis, 65, and Gerald Lee Smith, 65.

Bond was set at $10 million, $2.5 million on each murder count and Hoffman remained in custody, the clerk said. He is scheduled to appear in court next on Sept. 12.

Bucyrus, which has about 12,000 residents, is about 60 miles north of Columbus, Ohio.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by David Bailey and Doina Chiacu)

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