Father charged in girls' deaths
CNN | May 10, 2005
ZION, Illinois -- Police have taken Jerry Hobbs into custody and charged him with murdering his 8-year-old daughter, Laura, and her best friend, 9-year-old Krystal Tobias.
The second-grade classmates are believed to have been stabbed to death Sunday on Mother's Day.
He was reported to have found the girls' bodies early Monday in a wooded park just blocks away from their elementary school, said police in Zion, about 40 miles north of Chicago.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller declined to speculate on a motive, saying there was no "rational explanation" for the killings.
Hobbs, 34, could face the death penalty. But Waller said whether to pursue it is not a decision he wants to make "in the heat of the moment."
"The arrest today is the first step in the process of bringing this person to justice," he said.
Waller said the girls were not lured to the park; rather they encountered Hobbs there.
Waller said police questioned several relatives, but the others "didn't pique the officers' interest like he did."
"We believe we have a compelling case against this defendant, and all of that will come out in due course," he said.
Hobbs' bond hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Hobbs was released from prison in Texas last month after serving nearly two years for violating his probation. He had been serving time after pleading guilty to assault in 2001 against Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, said Rick Mahler, an assistant district attorney in Wichita Falls, Texas.
"He started chasing people around with a chainsaw that was running," Mahler said. "Somebody hit him with a shovel, knocked him down. Those people held him until the police arrived."
Hobbs was arrested again in 2003 after failing to show up for visits with his probation officer and skipping anger management classes.
In addition, Hobbs has served time in county jails on a variety of misdemeanor charges, ranging from assault to possession of marijuana and resisting arrest, Mahler said.
School Superintendent Connie Collins said the killings have left the community "in terrible shock." ( Full story )
"It's very difficult to begin to understand something like this," Collins said. "It's something that was not expected. In a community like this, we have never had this type of experience, so it's been very difficult for everyone."
Girl 'had a smile for everybody'
Laura's grandmother, Emily Hollabaugh, said her granddaughter was "a typical 8-year-old girl" who "always had a smile for everybody," and Krystal was "just as sweet as Laura was."
"I have a lot of questions, but it's just mostly rage at whoever could do this to two little girls," she said.
Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said each girl had been stabbed at least twice. Investigators found no initial signs they had been bound or sexually assaulted, he said.
Keller estimated the time of death at 1 to 2 a.m. Monday, but said that estimate could be affected by rain and cool temperatures in the area.
Parents, police and city and school officials were expected to attend a community meeting Tuesday night to talk about the killings, to offer safety tips and to provide an update on the investigation, Collins said.
She said the girls' class had recently touched on the issue of loss.
"Fortunately, in talking with the classroom teacher, she shared with me that the children recently read a couple of books on loss -- 'Charlotte's Web' and 'The Taste of Blackberries,' " Collins said. "The children had an opportunity to discuss feelings and talk about what it meant to lose someone and to share with each other."
The girls were last seen riding bicycles Sunday afternoon. One of the bikes was recovered near the spot where their bodies were found, shortly after 6 a.m. Monday by a man taking a walk in Beulah Park, a spot that neighborhood parents warn children to avoid.
"It's out of sight of many adults who might possibly be around the kids or monitoring them," Collins said. "We try to keep them in the open."
Hollabaugh said the girls were seen playing in the park about 5:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
"I know she didn't come home for dinner and we got worried, and her brothers and sisters went out looking for her," Hollabaugh told Chicago television station WLS. "They didn't find her, and then, about 9 o'clock, they called the police."
Zion Police Chief Doug Malcolm said the bodies were found about 100 yards off a bicycle path in a wooded area on the north end of the park.
Zion isn't used to such criminal events, said Mayor Lane Harrison. "This is an unusual occurrence for our community," she said. "We are going to do everything we can to bring this to a quick resolution."
Zion, population 23,000, had three reported homicides in 2002 and none in 2003, according to the police department's annual reports.