A former Zion man who was jailed for more than five years for the murders of his daughter and another young girl filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the police he says coerced his confession.
Lawyers for Jerry Hobbs III are seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages in the federal suit that names nine police officers assigned to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and the agencies that employ them full-time.
On May 8, 2005, Hobbs discovered the bodies of his daughter, Laura Hobbs, 8, and Laura's friend Krystal Tobias, 9, stabbed to death in a Zion park.
Police said Hobbs confessed to the crimes in the early morning hours of May 10, 2005, although Hobbs began denying any involvement in the acts within hours of his confession.
On Aug. 4 of this year, prosecutors who had been seeking the death penalty against Hobbs dropped the charges and released him from the Lake County jail, where he had been held without bond since his arrest.
DNA evidence linked another man, currently in custody in another state but who has not been charged with the murders of the two girls, to semen stains found on Laura Hobbs' body and clothing.
Attorney Locke Bowman of the Roderick Macarthur Justice Center at Northwestern University, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit on Hobbs' behalf, said Wednesday that police used "psychological abuse as well as physical force," to get Hobbs to confess to a crime he did not commit.
"Jerry Hobbs suffered the worst thing a father could experience finding the murdered body of his beloved daughter," Bowman said. "At a time when he was at his weakest, he was brutalized into confessing to a crime he was no more responsible for than you or I."
The suit names: Waukegan police officers Dominic Cappelluti, Charles Schletz and William Valko; deputies Timothy Jonites and Robert Dever of the Lake County sheriff's office; Vernon Hills officer Andrew Jones; Buffalo Grove officer Thomas Derken; and Zion officer Kevin Harris as defendants.
Also accused in the suit are an officer whose name and home department Hobbs' lawyers say they do not know, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, and the municipalities of Waukegan, Zion, Vernon Hills and Buffalo Grove.
None of the parties named as defendants in the suit could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force is made up of investigators and evidence technicians from departments throughout the county who are paid by their home departments while serving with the task force.
The suit claims the officers "aggressively and forcefully" questioned Hobbs and accused him of the murders until he confessed.
It also states Hobbs was knocked to the ground by one of the officers, was lied to about evidence that had been collected against him and he repeatedly asked to speak to an attorney but was not successful.
In the summer of 2006, Lake County public defenders representing Hobbs challenged the legality of the confession in a multiday hearing before Circuit Judge Fred Foreman.
The officers who questioned Hobbs testified they did not coerce or abuse him in any way while he was in their custody. Although Hobbs' attorneys argued he had been beaten, Hobbs did not testify at the hearing and no evidence was presented to support the claim.
Hobbs and his attorneys are expected to discuss the lawsuit in more detail at a news conference scheduled for Thursday in Chicago.