Prosecutors: DNA not murder suspect's

July 7, 2010 4:30:41 AM PDT
New DNA evidence could lead to the release of Jerry Hobbs, the father accused of killing his daughter and her friend five years ago in the far northern suburbs.Hobbs, 39, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the stabbing deaths of his 8-year-old daughter, Laura, and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias.

A DNA sample taken from one of the girls has been linked to another man who was already in prison in a different state, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors would not identify the new suspect Tuesday, but they did say they are re-evaluating the entire case against Jerry Hobbs.

"I can't believe it, and I know when other people hear it, they're not going able to believe it either," said Dan Florick, victim's neighbor.

A new tree and a plaque that sit in the middle of Beulah Park will always be a reminder to Zion residents about the two girls who were brutally murdered there years ago. Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias were found in the woods with mulitple stab wounds. Their shoes were placed neatly next to their bodies.

A small piece of DNA evidence was found on Laura Hobbs. A couple years ago, it was determined the samples did not match Jerry Hobb's DNA. After it was entered into a federal database, on June 25, prosecutors founs out it matched an out-of-state prisoner.

"We mobilized the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and are reinterviewing witnesses and reanalyzing every piece of evidence," Attorney Jeffrey Pavletic said in a statement Tuesday.

Attorney Kathleen Zellner, who has had several clients cleared through DNA, says she believes prosecutors should drop the charges against Hobbs immediately.

"When you have a confession, you must corroborate it. You've got to have crime scene evidence that fits what the person is telling you. DNA is obviously a deal-breaker," Zellner said.

Florick's daughter was best friends with Krystal Tobias. A memorial to her still stands in his backyard.

Until Tuesday, Florick said he never had any doubt that Hobbs was guilty.

"At the time we were. He is the one who found the bodies at the time, and then from what we understand with the investigation from the Zion Police Department and others, that they had found evidence in the house of the girl's blood on his clothes," Florick said.

"She would come over a lot every single day and stuff and we would hang out all the time and make scrap books and stuff. That's basically what I miss," Tobias' friend Cristela Florick said.

Tobias and Laura Hobbs went missing on Mother's Day in 2005. Their bodies were found by Jerry Hobbs lying side by side in Zion's Beulah Park.

Hobbs confessed to the murders after a 20-hour interrogation but later retracted the confession. Defense attorneys say they believe the confession was coerced.

Despite the lack of any physical evidence connecting him to the crime, Hobbs was arrested and charged and has been jailed ever since.

His case is scheduled to go to trial in October. However, Hobbs is scheduled to be in court Wednesday morning. That schedule was already in place before the new DNA information was released.

Hobbs' attorney said Tuesday he was not sure if he would ask for Hobbs to be released Wednesday, but he said he was encouraged by the new evidence and that it was positive news for his client.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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