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Jerry Branton HOBBS III





Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Miscarriage of justice - DNA evidence linked another man, Jorge "George" Torrez, to the crime
Number of victims: 2 ?
Date of murders: May 8, 2005
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1970
Victims profile: His daughter, Laura Hobbs, 8, and her best friend, Krystal Tobias, 9
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Zion, Illinois, USA
Status: After spending five years in jail, Lake County prosecutors dropped all the charges against Jerry Hobbs III on August 3, 2010

photo gallery


Children's Bodies Found In Suburban Park

Arthur Hollabaugh says he had searched through the night for his missing granddaughter when he spotted something in bushes part way down a ravine: a child's bicycle. Minutes later, he said Tuesday, his son-in-law, Jerry Hobbs, was screaming that he had found the bodies of his 8-year-old daughter, Laura Hobbs, and her best friend, Krystal Tobias, who disappeared together on a Mother's Day bike ride.

"I went and I seen them from a distance," Hollabaugh, 51, told The Associated Press. "It was clear they were laying there."

Laura and 9-year-old Krystal were stabbed repeatedly and left a few yards off a wooded bike path near their homes in this small city near the Wisconsin line. On Tuesday, a memorial of flowers and balloons marked the area where the bodies were found a day earlier.

Police weren't commenting on the case Tuesday morning, but Hollabaugh said investigators were questioning his son-in-law and had also talked to Laura's siblings about Hobbs. Donald Meadie, assistant commander of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, confirmed late Monday that Jerry Hobbs had been questioned but said there were no suspects. He declined to comment further.

Hollabaugh said Hobbs had just returned to the area about a month earlier to reunite with Laura's mother after serving time in a Texas prison.

"Jerry just got out of prison for aggravated assault and I think they're holding that against him," Hollabaugh said. "I don't think he did it." Hobbs could not be reached for comment Tuesday; Hollabaugh said he was still with the police.

Police searched the family home and Hollabaugh said they took measurements of his shoe soles. "They went through our stuff, took clothes," he said, adding that they took the computer to see if the girl had been on any Internet chat rooms.

Grief counselors were being brought to Beulah Park Elementary, where the girls were best friends in the same second grade class. The pupils just read "Charlotte's Web" and "A Taste of Blackberries," both of which deal with loss, school superintendent Constance Collins said Tuesday.

"I think that those stories will serve as an excellent backdrop for what we're going to have to deal with today," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."

The girls' bodies were discovered in Beulah Park about four blocks from the school on Monday shortly after dawn. Police said no weapons were found and there was no evidence of sexual assault.

Zion, along Lake Michigan, was founded in 1901 by a religious faith healer as a utopian community. It has about 22,000 residents but retains a quiet, at times rural feel despite being on the edge of both the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas.

Laura Unrein, who lives near Beulah Park, said the area where the bodies were found is well known as a place to avoid. The heavily wooded park has a paved bike path, a ravine and trails made by mountain bikes.

"There have been incidents of kids beating up people and taking their wallets and park rangers have had to shoo people out of there for hunting illegally," she said, adding that it's also a popular hangout for teens to drink.

The parents of one of the girls had reported her missing about 8:50 p.m. Sunday, about two hours after she was expected home, Police Chief Doug Malcolm said. The parents of the other girl called shortly afterward, and authorities with rescue dogs began searching.

Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said it appears the girls were killed where their bodies were found; there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

"They were best friends. When one left, the other left. They were always together," said Unrein.

The killings stunned this town about 45 miles north of Chicago, prompting police and Beulah Park Elementary School officials to escort children directly onto buses at the end of the school day.

"I know that they were very sweet girls," said Julie Dobnikar, who teaches second grade at the school, adding that the girls' teacher is "very distraught right now."  -AP


Park Known As A Place To Avoid

Laura Unrein, who lives near Beulah Park, said the area where the bodies were found is well known as a place to avoid. The heavily wooded park has a paved bike path, a ravine and trails made by mountain bikes. "There have been incidents of kids beating up people and taking their wallets and park rangers have had to shoo people out of there for hunting illegally," she said, adding that it's also a popular hangout for teens to drink.

"Our children are told not to be down in that area," she said. "My husband and I don't go down there anymore because you hear the stories."

The parents of one of the girls had reported her missing about 8:50 p.m. Sunday, about two hours after she was expected home, Malcolm said. The parents of the other girl called shortly afterward, and authorities with rescue dogs began searching. A resident walking through the park discovered the bodies at dawn. Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said it appears the girls were killed where their bodies were found. They had both been stabbed multiple times, authorities said.

"They were best friends. When one left, the other left. They were always together," said Unrein.

The killings stunned this town about 45 miles north of Chicago, prompting police and Beulah Park Elementary School officials to escort children directly onto buses at the end of the school day.

"I know that they were very sweet girls," said Julie Dobnikar, who teaches second grade at the school, adding that the girls' teacher is "very distraught right now."

Dozens of anxious parents waited until their children emerged from the front doors of the school, then put their arms around their kids or clutched their hands as they walked to their cars.

"I'm concerned for their safety," Cynthia Taylor said of her granddaughters, ages 5 and 6. "It's bad and scary that people could be so cruel to innocent kids."  -AP


Father Denied Bond, Allegedly Confesses

America's Most Wanted

May 10, 2005

A father was arrested on murder charges Tuesday, May 10, 2005 in the Mother's Day stabbings of his 8-year-old daughter and the little girl's best friend, who were killed after they went biking in a park.

Jerry Hobbs, who was recently released from prison, had led police to the bodies just off a wooded bike path early Monday, claiming he spotted them while searching for his daughter, the girl's grandfather, Arthur Hollabaugh, claimed.

Hobbs, 34, was questioned through the day about the deaths of Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9.

Both girls had been beaten and stabbed repeatedly in the woods and left to die, Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said. He said the girls were found side-by-side and did not appear to have been sexually assaulted.

No motive was given at a Tuesday news conference, but a states' attorney told reporters that a bond hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday morning. At that time, he said, evidence against the suspect would be presented.

Hobbs' Reaction Raised Questions

Jerry Hobbs, just out of prison, led police to the girls himself. They wanted to know how he found them. They kept asking him questions. Finally, after hours of being interviewed, Hobbs was charged with both murders, a crime that stunned this small city near the Wisconsin line.

"I think its safe to say his reaction to questions piqued the officers' interest to question him further," prosecutor Michael Waller said in announcing the charges Tuesday.

Waller would not discuss possible motives for the killings but said details would come out when Hobbs appeared in bond court Wednesday.

"This horrific crime has terrorized and traumatized the Zion community and, I think it's safe to say, people of good will everywhere," Waller said. "There's no rational explanation or reasonable motive that can be ascribed to an act of horror like this."

The county coroner, Richard Keller, said the girls were found side-by-side, facing up and did not appear to have been sexually assaulted. They appeared to have been killed near where they were found, he said.

"If it was him, then good thing they brought him down," said Krystal's 15-year-old brother, Alberto Segura. "We never thought a father would do that to a daughter. They were just babies. They didn't do anything wrong."

Recent Criminal History

Hobbs has an extensive criminal history dating to 1990 in Texas, including arrests for assault and resisting arrest, according to records kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

For the two years up until April 12, he was in a Texas prison serving time for assault involving an argument with Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, during which he grabbed a chain saw and chased neighbors through the trailer park where they lived, according to Rick Mahler, assistant district attorney for Wichita County, Texas.

No one was hurt in the 2001 incident and someone subdued Hobbs by hitting him in the back with a shovel, Mahler said.

Hobbs was sentenced to 10 years probation but failed to appear for required meetings, so his probation was revoked in 2003 and he was imprisoned until last month.

Arthur Hollabaugh said Hobbs had been living with the Hollabaughs after his release. He said he worried authorities might be trying to railroad Hobbs in their search for the girls' killer.

"Jerry just got out of prison for aggravated assault, and I think they're holding that against him," Hollabaugh said before police announced charges against Hobbs. "I don't think he did it."

Hollabaugh described the search for his missing granddaughter and said he and Hobbs were in the woods shortly before dawn Monday when they spotted Laura's bike part way down a ravine in the brush.

Minutes later, he said, Hobbs was screaming that he had found the bodies. "I went and I seen them from a distance," said Hollabaugh. "It was clear they were laying there."

At the entrance to Beulah Park, more than a dozen young children stood quietly around a growing memorial of flowers, balloons and stuffed animals.

One sign read: "May your angels rest peacefully in heaven."


Flophouses and arrests are milestones of a violent life

-  The Chicago Tribune

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - Among the last places Jerry Branton Hobbs III called home before leaving this small town near the Oklahoma border was a junked car that sat in the backyard of the house his ex-girlfriend shared with his three children.

From the battered car where he lived and slept, Hobbs could keep an eye on the toffee-colored brick ranch home only yards away, where the woman, Sheila Hollabaugh lived with her new boyfriend.

"It was winter," recalled a neighbor, Linda Balser, whose husband, Larry, said Hobbs described himself as "something of a mechanic" and said he was going to work on the car.

"He was going to fix it but he never did," Larry Balser said.

In what had been a pattern during their stormy 10-year relationship, Hollabaugh let Hobbs back into her life in 2003 and the lives of her four children, three of them--Jerry IV, Laura and Jeremy--his.

As Lake County investigators focus their attention on this northern Texas town of more than 100,000 to build a portrait of the man they have charged with killing his 8-year-old daughter, Laura, and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9, in far north suburban Zion, they will discover a life marked by squalor and domestic abuse and fueled by anger, those who know him said.

Hobbs was a drifter who went from one flophouse to the next and found trouble at virtually every stop, according to interviews and court documents.

He did landscaping jobs for cash and briefly worked as a short-order cook at a local International House of Pancakes restaurant, where he was fired because of his temper, according to court documents and interviews.

Maria Barelski, a former restaurant co-worker, filed a report in 2002 with Wichita Falls police, notifying them that she had ditched her 1991 Chevy truck at a bus station before fleeing the state to get away from Hobbs.

"She left town in a hurry to get away from Jerry Hobbs," the report said, which contains no explanation of why Barelski feared Hobbs.

In an order of protection lodged against Hobbs in 2001, Hollabaugh had also told of fearing Hobbs, describing him as an alcoholic whom she had left the year before because he "physically abused me." Hollabaugh pleaded for him to stay out of her life.

"I'm scared he might try to come after me. I left him to get away from this," Hollabaugh wrote in requesting the order.

Since 1990 Hobbs has been arrested 29 times for drug violations, assaults and other infractions, said Wichita Falls police spokeswoman Sgt. Cindy Walker, tapping a six-inch stack of documents on the incidents.

"I think that would be a lot for someone a hundred years old, much less someone just over 30," Walker said. "He had a terrible, violent temper."

Hobbs' Texas path will lead investigators to a block dotted with abandoned shacks, where padlocks hang from doors, plastic sheeting serves as windows and taped-up notices threaten landlords with service cuts.

At one of those homes, which now sits empty with bone-dry tan paint flaking from its exterior, Hobbs had a bloody 1990 encounter with Stacey Townsend, according to court papers.

Hobbs, angry that Townsend was "spinning the tires on his car," pulled a knife from a sheath on his belt and stabbed him in the gut, according to the police report. The case was pleaded down to a misdemeanor, and Hobbs served a 60-day sentence in the county jail.

A haven for trouble

The area now is a haven for drug dealers and drinkers who sometimes take over the structures, said a woman neighbor who moved in only a few months ago.

"I won't even go outside, it's just too bad," said the woman, speaking from her porch stoop.

Wichita Falls--named for one of the Native American groups drawn to the area by its rich agricultural land--is the seat of Wichita County and grew on income from cattle and cotton. Oil production in the area peaked in the early 1950s.

Near the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport, which shares land with Sheppard Air Force Base, sits El Rey Trailer Park, where many of the hookups sit unused and some of the few trailers display signs warning people to stay away. It is a place marred by tragedy. One resident died from a beating. A woman died in a fire, and a baby was found dead.

Hobbs was arrested at the trailer park in 2001 after he started up a gas-powered chain saw and chased bystanders who were present when he attacked Hollabaugh after finding her with another man. According to Hollabaugh and one of the men he went after, Hobbs had been drinking and demanding his children, who were with their mother.

To stop the attack, bystanders knocked Hobbs down with a shovel and held him until police arrived. He was charged with felony domestic assault, which was reduced to a misdemeanor.

It's a case that even veteran Wichita County prosecutor Rick Mohler said stands out.

"It's the chain saw," Mohler said. "We deal with hundreds of [domestic assaults] a year. This one's the only one I've ever seen in more than 20 years where there was a chain saw."

Hobbs' mother, Joann Hobbs, and his stepfather, Don Coffee, live in a tiny brown home, one of four along a gravel road. The homes are flanked by North Texas State Hospital, a mental institution, and Lake Wichita, which neighbors say is too polluted for fishing.

Padlocks secure a chest-high chain-link fence at their home, and the few windows are blackened out. In the yard, two cats scramble past an RV camper, a 1965 Ford pickup and a three-wheel custom motorcycle.

In the yard, a children's white bicycle tire hangs on a rope dangling from a small tree. Neighbors said the couple's grandchildren were frequent visitors and often lived with them when the parents needed a hand.

"[Joann Hobbs] took care of them; it looks like they do that a lot," said Lewis Dickerson, a neighbor. "She was very proud of her grandchildren."

Another neighbor said Jerry Hobbs was taken in by his mother and stepfather when he needed help. The arrangement only lasted a few months before Hobbs' drug use and temper got him kicked out.

Don Coffee declined to comment.

While Hobbs was going from one address to the next, he failed to make any of the $300 monthly child-support payments ordered by the local court, documents show. He ended up spending a month in the county jail in 2002 after piling up more than $2,000 in failed payments, according to court records.

At the time, Hollabaugh was living in nearby subsidized housing.

She eventually moved into the home next to the Balsers, where she lived with a new boyfriend whose mother owned the house. Hollabaugh liked that her children could play with other children on the block and could walk to school.

'A move up'

"It was a move up," Linda Balser said. "She came from a bad area and said it wasn't safe for her kids. I think she wanted it to work here for her kids. She was trying to better herself; she just didn't know how to do it."

When Jerry Hobbs moved into the car behind the house, arguments between Hobbs, Hollabaugh and her boyfriend became commonplace. The house stuck out in the middle-class neighborhood for its late-night traffic, frequent police stops and loud arguments.

Linda Balser said Hollabaugh complained that Hobbs tried to be strict with the children, while she believed they should run free. It wasn't unusual to see their youngest child crossing the street in his diaper, Balser said. Hollabaugh said she took in Hobbs because of the children.

"She said that was their father and the kids loved him," Linda Balser said. "She was a single mother raising her children; she was trying, but it just fell in again."

Hobbs was arrested after violating his probation and spent about 18 months in a Texas prison, where he corresponded with Hollabaugh. After his release last month, he headed for Zion to once again be with her and his children.


The Case Against Jerry Hobbs

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - Fox News

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," May 11, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A killer's confession and the horrific details of the murders of two young girls. We need to warn you, what you're about to hear is very disturbing.


JEFFREY PAVLETIC, LAKE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY CHIEF DEPUTY: Mr. [Jerry] Hobbs, the defendant, indicated that he went to the park and he was looking for Laura [Hobbs], who is his natural daughter. He said that she had been a little bit of a discipline problem. She had been suspected of taking some money from her mother. She had recently been grounded. And she had been recently, as recently as this weekend, had been taken off being grounded. He thought that the girl was having too much latitude as to what she can and can't do.

Between 4:30 and 7:00 o'clock on Sunday night, he said that he went out to the park. He said that he went out to the park, he was looking for Laura to bring her home. He said that he went out there. He was in the wooded area that's north of Beulah Park. He said that he saw her with Krystal. He said that he then confronted Laura and said, Come home. You're coming home with me. She said she didn't want to. An argument developed.

He then said, in his own words, that he had punched her twice, at least twice, in the face. She went down to the ground. Krystal [Tobias] then came to Laura's rescue. The defendant then stated that he punched her to the ground, as well. He then stated that during this period of time, Krystal, who was coming to the aid of Laura, had pulled out what he described as a potato knife. He said that once that potato knife was pulled out, he said that is when he then struck Krystal. He then took the knife from her and then repeatedly began to stab both girls in the bodies.


VAN SUSTEREN: Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller joins us live. Mike, I know that there's some limitations in terms of what you can say, ethically, under the Illinois rules, about the case, so stop me if I ask you one that's beyond. But how is it that the father even came in contact with the daughter on the night of Mother's Day?

MICHAEL WALLER, LAKE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: Well, he was living, you know, in the family home. And Laura and Krystal were out playing in the neighborhood, and he went looking for them and encountered them in a relatively remote location, and as Jamie indicated, engaged in this absolutely brutal attack on these two little girls.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it matter, Mike — I mean, the statement that he has given is a confession. It may be one that is not wholly, 100 percent true. It may be a way that he might think makes him look better. But does it matter if he lied a little bit in his statement?

WALLER: No. I've been in this business a long time. I've been a prosecutor for 24 years and have prosecuted numerous murder cases and handled many as state's attorney. It's not unusual to have a defendant give untruths in a statement where he admits his guilt. It's something we deal with all the time. None of us believe that this little girl had a knife. I mean, he referred to it as a potato knife, and apparently, that's some term that's used in Texas, a knife with about a four or five-inch blade. And you know, it's inconceivable that Krystal had this knife.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the family cooperating with you? Because I know that the mother of the child, of course, has a relationship with the father. But is the family cooperating?

WALLER: Well, yes, they have. You know, you have to have some empathy for the family. You know, what they've gone through this week, losing their daughter and now having their husband or boyfriend charged, there's a roller-coaster of emotions. I haven't spoken directly to the family, but the investigators from the Major Crimes Task Force have, and they've provided information and answered questions. But you know, it's not unusual for the girlfriend or the wife to stick with the defendant. If that happens in this case, you know, I won't be surprised.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know if you need much more beyond a confession and corroborating circumstances. You do have two dead little girls, and he's apparently confessed to it. But have you also recovered evidence inside the house or someplace else that will also help prove your case?

WALLER: Well, we have seized numerous pieces of evidence, and we've submitted them to the crime lab. You know, the crime was uncovered on Monday, and it's now a cold, windy Wednesday evening here in Waukegan, and the evidence is en route to the crime lab and we won't get any results. We believe that we will have some physical evidence that will corroborate our case and link the defendant to the crime, but we don't know that yet for sure. But the investigation was ongoing, and whatever needs to be done will be done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were any family members suspicious of him on Sunday night?

WALLER: Yes. No, I'm sorry, not on Sunday night. After the body was discovered, some of them expressed some suspicion, sort of the same suspicions that the police had. One of the factors was that, you know, he didn't get within 20 feet of the bodies when they were discovered on early Monday morning, and yet he gave the police a detailed description as to how the bodies appeared. And from the point that he was at, he wouldn't have been able to see the bodies.

And then the route that he took into this really isolated area where the bodies were found would not be a route that you would expect somebody who is just doing a general search to take. It was sort of, like, Well, I think I'll head over in this direction, where there doesn't seem to be anything, and then he found the bicycle and the girls' bodies. So there was some expression by family members — or at least one family member — of suspicion.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Sir, thank you very much for joining us.

Joining us live by phone is David Brodsky, the attorney for accused double murderer Jerry Hobbs. David, where do you begin in representing this man?

DAVID BRODSKY, JERRY HOBBS'S ATTORNEY: Well, you know, the court has appointed us, and we'll take that job very seriously. We're going to take, like in any case like this, a multi-pronged approach. We're not going to leave any stone unturned, and that really has to do with, first of all, the case itself, which at this point, we know nothing about, but also to find out about Mr. Hobbs. We need to get a complete background work-up on him, a social investigation, a psychological investigation. We need to consult experts in both the case in chief and in background investigation.

You know, I mean, this is a case, as I said before, we need to take very seriously, and it's going to be a challenge to overcome the intense media scrutiny and the feelings and the emotions that are involved in this case. But we're up for the challenge.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had a chance to talk — I'm not going to invade the attorney-client privilege — but have you had a chance to talk to the family, the mother of the child, the grandfather?

BRODSKY: We've talked to some of the family members, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have the sense that they're going to be of any help to you, or is this just too — at this point — because sometimes family members will stick by the accused, and sometimes they don't.

BRODSKY: Yes. You know, they don't know what to think right now. They're extremely confused, and they're distraught, and as State's Attorney Waller told you — I don't think I could have said it any better. I mean, you know, they don't know what to think at this point, and they're confused. And we'll see what happens. But with or without their cooperation — we hope with their cooperation — you know, we'll build a case here to represent Mr. Hobbs.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's a realistic timetable in terms of when you would expect this to go to trial, in light of the docket there?

BRODSKY: Yes. You know, I really have not even seen any police reports or had an opportunity to do anything on the case yet. So any estimate I could give you would just be, you know, guessing. But it's going to depend on the complexities of the case. It's going to depend on whether the state elects to seek the death penalty or whether they don't. It's going to, you know, depend on what kind of evidence there is or there isn't. And you know, the veracity of the statements, the way they look, our client's cooperation. It's going to depend on a lot of different things.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, David, thank you very much.


2 girls' slayings now a death penalty case

By Barbara Bell - Chicago Tribune

November 2, 2005

Prosecutors in north suburban Lake County said today they would seek the death penalty against Jerry Hobbs, accused of beating and stabbing to death his young daughter and her friend last May at a park in Zion.

The decision, by the Lake County state's attorney's office, was announced this morning at a hearing before Judge Fred Foreman in the Waukegan courthouse.

Hobbs, 35, stood in his jail uniform before Foreman as a sheriff's deputy stood behind him holding onto a leather belt that was wrapped around Hobbs' waist. Foreman set Dec. 2 for a case management conference between representatives of the state's attorney and public defender's offices.

"What we did in this case is what we do in every case," Assistant State's Atty. Jeff Pavletic said outside the courtroom.

Hobbs' background was reviewed, and prosecutors met with the families of both victims, Pavletic said. He said he also met with Public Defender David Brodsky to discuss information that could mitigate against capital punishment for Hobbs if the man is found guilty of first-degree murder in the killings.

The suspect confessed to killing his daughter Laura, 8, and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9, prosecutors have said. The girls were slain May 8 in Beulah Park, Zion, after the father allegedly flew into a rage when Laura refused to come home with him.

Brodsky today issued a statement expressing disappointment in the prosecutor's decision.

"Now that we have had the opportunity to review the evidence in this case, it is clear that Jerry Hobbs is unquestionably innocent of the murders of Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias," Brodsky said.

Brodsky declined to comment further, saying the law prohibits him from discussing the evidence. The defense attorney also said Hobbs has "been nothing but a model inmate" while in custody.

The death penalty is rarely sought by the Lake County State's attorney office, Pavletic said.

"It's only in extreme cases," he said, adding he could not recall the last the time his office sought the death penalty for a defendant.


Confession to police can stay in murder trial

By Tony Gordon - Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Zion man's confession to the murder of two little girls was legally obtained and can be used against him at trial, a Lake County judge ruled Friday.

Jerry Hobbs III, 36, faces the death penalty if convicted of the May 8, 2005, slayings of his daughter, Laura, 8, and her friend, Krystal Tobais, 9.

In August, Circuit Judge Fred Foreman heard three days of testimony from detectives who questioned Hobbs after he told police he had found the girls' bodies in a Zion park.

Five officers testified Hobbs was questioned from about 7:30 a.m. May 9 until he confessed to killing the girls about 4:40 a.m. the next day.

The officers said they read Hobbs his rights three times during that period, stopped questioning him for significant periods of time during the span, and never told Hobbs he could not leave their presence until he confessed.

Hobbs did not testify during the hearing, but his attorneys argued police held Hobbs in a windowless room in a Waukegan police station until they broke his will to resist their accusations.

Foreman, in a 37-page ruling, said he saw no evidence of illegal activity by police and that he believed Hobbs cooperated in the process.

"The fact that the defendant did not invoke any of his rights suggests the mood of the questioning was not unduly burdensome and that he willingly participated in the questioning," Foreman wrote.

"In fact, it is important to note that the detectives were unequivocal in their testimony that the defendant was free to leave at any time prior to his confession."

Also on Friday, Assistant Public Defender Keith Grant argued Hobbs' trial should be moved out of Lake County because of the publicity the case has received.

Grant presented the results of a public opinion poll showing 78.5 percent of county residents questioned had heard of the case and 69.1 percent of that group believed Hobbs is guilty.

The poll was taken by McCulloch and Associates of Westmont and shows results from 400 respondents. It has a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

Grant said getting an impartial jury in Lake County will be impossible because much of the reporting about the case contained information that would not be presented to a jury during a trial.

He said the facts Hobbs served prison time in Texas for attacking a group of people with a chain saw and that Hobbs took and failed a voice-stress analysis test while being questioned in this case are details potential jurors should not know.

Taking the case outside the county, Grant argued, would go further to insure jury members had not made conclusions about the case.

"The extent of the media coverage of this case has been extreme and the local media has been the center of the storm," Grant said. "In another county it will be reported, but it will be less because the local connection will not be there."

But Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Chancey countered it was too early in the process to determine if an impartial panel of jurors can be selected.

Chancey urged Foreman to wait until the trial date is set and jury selection begins so the effect of the publicity can be gauged by questioning potential jurors.

"The defense says they have never seen such extensive coverage of a Lake County case, but I, in fact, have," Chancey said. "The poll does not answer the questions the court needs to have answered."


Trial date set in murder of two Lake County girls

By Tony Gordon - Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Lake County judge on Monday said the trial of a Zion man accused of killing two children will begin Oct. 1.

Jerry Hobbs III, 36, could face the death penalty if convicted of the May 8, 2004 murders of his daughter, Laura, 8, and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9.

Hobbs has been in custody since the morning after the murders, when detectives of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force say he confessed to killing the girls in a Zion park.

Circuit Judge Fred Foreman told the attorneys on the case Monday he expected them to have their expert witnesses complete their review of the evidence in the case by the end of summer.

Following that, Foreman said, he wants to hold a Sept. 26 conference with the attorneys to discuss ways to handle potential problems selecting jurors.

The case received massive attention from the local and national media in its first few days, and Foreman has already turned down a motion by defense attorneys to move the case out of Lake County.

He said he would consider moving the case again if problems developed in selecting jurors who can set aside what they know about the case and decide the matter based on evidence presented in court.

Jury selection should begin Oct. 1, Foreman said, and will continue as long as it appears sufficient neutral jurors can be found.

Detectives say Hobbs admitted killing the girls when he flew into a rage because Laura refused to return home with him.

Defense attorneys, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Hobbs’ confession out of the trial, argued police kept Hobbs awake for almost 48 hours during his interrogation and coerced the confession.


Hobbs to stay in jail

By Lisa Black and Dan Hinkel - Chicago Tribune

July 22, 2010

The first time JoAnn Hobbs saw her son after he was charged with killing his 8-year-old daughter and her young friend, he blurted out that he'd confessed to the slayings, she said.

"Mama, they broke me," she said he told her.

She believed Jerry Hobbs III when he told her he was forced to confess after 20 hours of interrogation in May 2005 — and she believes him today, she said.

After staying silent for years out of fear of jeopardizing the Zion case, she said she decided to speak up Wednesday after Lake County prosecutors were granted a second two-week continuance to investigate DNA evidence linked to another man in custody.

Hobbs' attorney also filed a motion asking for a hearing to argue that Hobbs should be released on bond. Judge Fred Foreman set a status hearing and bond hearing for Aug. 4.

For now, Hobbs, 39, remains in jail with a murder trial scheduled Oct. 6. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

"He was optimistic about getting out but, after today — he's scared," said JoAnn Hobbs of Wichita Falls, Texas. "It's like they are still trying him for something he didn't do."

She has talked to her son several times weekly on the phone but hasn't seen him in two years, she said.

Hobbs said her son's public defense team has discouraged her from visiting, saying he had received death threats and that they couldn't guarantee her safety. Hobbs was kept isolated from other prisoners for more than four years, she said, spending most of his time drawing pictures and reading.

"I can understand a mother's frustration at seeing her son incarcerated for a crime that she believes, perhaps rightly, that he didn't commit," said Keith Grant, assistant public defender. "However, she and we remain united in our goal to see Jerry released."

On Wednesday, Jerry Hobbs, thin and clean-shaven with short black hair, shuffled into the crowded courtroom in shackles and handcuffs. He sat in the jury box and smiled and nodded as Grant whispered in his ear in the moments before Foreman took the bench. Hobbs said nothing audible during the hearing.

Hobbs allegedly confessed to killing his daughter, Laura, and her friend, Krystal Tobias, 9, in a fit of rage, police said. Both girls were stabbed multiple times. Semen was recovered from inside Laura's body and on her skirt.

In 2008, Hobbs' defense argued that DNA from the semen did not match with Hobbs and that he had been coerced into confessing.


Charges Dropped Against Accused Child-Killer Hobbs

Jerry Hobbs free after spending five years in jail

By Christian Farr -

August 4, 2010

A Zion father who has spent the last five years in jail for allegedly killing his 8-year-old daughter and her friend is a free man Wednesday thanks to recently discovered DNA evidence. 

Lake County prosecutors dropped all the charges against Jerry Hobbs III, who has been in custody for the murder of his daughter and her friend since Mother's Day 2005.

The announcement came after a brief court proceeding Wednesday morning.  Hobbs was immediately released and promptly left the state, heading for Texas where his mother lives.

Hobbs was charged with the deaths of his 8-year-old daughter, Laura, and her 9-year old friend, Krystal Tobias, on Mother's Day 2005. Their bodies were found beaten and stabbed in a Zion, Ill., park. He was considered the main suspect until DNA evidence emerged this June linking another man, Jorge "George" Torrez, to the crime.

Torrez, an active duty Marine, is currently in custody in Virginia on another charge. The Torrez family lives a block away from the victims' houses.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller defended the handling of the case. He said there was good reason to charge Hobbs in 2005 because he confessed to the crimes in written and video taped statements. 

He said he will not offer an apology to Hobbs.

"I don't believe law enforcement did anything wrong in this case," Waller said at a press conference.

Keith Grant, Hobbs' public defender, said the confession was false.

"I don't know why the DNA in and on Laura Hobbs was missed," he said.



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