Murderer back to face charges Zion girls' killing
Convicted killer Jorge Alvi Torrez, a Zion native and former U.S. Marine, has been returned to Lake County to stand trial in the notorious 2005 slaying of two girls in Zion.
Torrez, 25, appeared in bond court Saturday morning, and Lake County Judge Michael Betar set an arraignment for Wednesday, Dec. 10.
In a separate federal criminal case last April, Torrez was sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of a Navy sailor at a barracks in northern Virginia.
Prosecutors said DNA evidence links Torrez to the Mother's Day killings of friends 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias in a Zion park. He's charged with first-degree murders in that case.
The Associated Press reported that Laura's grandfather Arthur Hollabaugh and dad Jerry Hobbs searched for the girls when Laura failed to come home on Mother's Day.
They found the girls the next day.
"I seen 'em laying there," Hollabaugh said in the AP report. "I called the police and said, 'They're dead."'
Torrez was 16 at the time. He lived in the neighborhood and was a friend of Tobias' older brother Alberto Segura.
Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said of Torrez's return to Illinois, "We look forward to bringing justice, and eventually some closure, to the families of the victims as well as the entire community."
The murder of the two girls made national headlines and created controversy, especially because Jerry Hobbs was initially charged with killing his daughter and her friend. Hobbs has said that authorities coerced a confession from him after 20 hours of interrogation.
Hobbs spent five years in jail until authorities said DNA evidence, which they had earlier dismissed, pointed the finger of guilt at Torrez.
A jury in U.S. District Court in Alexandria convicted Torrez of killing Navy Petty Officer Amanda Snell, 20, in July 2009. Both lived in the barracks on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington County, Virginia.
After Torrez was charged in the Snell case, Mike Nerheim, Lake County state's attorney, said he intended to bring Torrez to trial.
"I want to do everything in my power to make sure justice is done in Lake County on this case," Nerheim said.
Torrez was convicted of a series of stalking attacks on three women in northern Virginia in 2010, including one who was raped, choked and left for dead. DNA evidence collected after Torrez's arrest in those cases helped investigators link him to Snell's murder and the Zion slayings.
An Associated Press report said that after Torrez was found guilty of Snell's murder, Torrez ordered his lawyers not to put on any defense or question the government's case during the trial's sentencing phase.
During closing arguments and the reading of the verdict, the AP reported that Torrez sat impassively in front of the jury in his green jail jumpsuit, forgoing the civilian clothes he had worn during the trial.
During those closing arguments, prosecutor James Trump told the jury that Torrez committed the Zion murders, which were especially brutal.
Jurors saw gruesome photos of Hobbs' body with stab wounds to the eyes that medical experts concluded occurred while she was still living. DNA in semen found on Hobbs linked the crimes to Torrez.
Torrez believed he had gotten away with murder until his arrest in Virginia, Trump said.
Then, Torrez bragged about the killings to another inmate after his arrest in the Arlington attacks. Prosecutors played recordings of those confessions in which Torrez laughed about the killings.
Trump reminded jurors that Torrez bragged about being "an army of one" while preying on defenseless children.
"There's no room for doubt. Jorge Torrez deserves to die," Trump told jurors.
The jury in that case agreed.
The murder of 9-year-old Laura Hobbs of Zion is one of several in which former Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller pursued conviction not supported by DNA evidence.
• The Illinois Appellate Court in 2011 threw out Juan Rivera's third conviction for the 1992 rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker of Waukegan. DNA evidence on Staker's body did not match Rivera. Rivera spent 20 years in prison, beginning when he was 19.
• Jerry Hobbs spent five years in jail awaiting trial for the murders of his daughter and another little girl before DNA taken from his daughter's body was matched to a man in custody in another state for other crimes.
• In May 2012, James Edwards was cleared of the 1994 slaying of a Waukegan business owner based on DNA evidence. He remains in prison on a separate conviction.
• The last remaining charge was dropped in 2013 against Bennie Starks of Zion, who spent 20 years in prison after he was convicted in 1986 of sexual assault and aggravated battery in a Waukegan case where DNA taken from the 69-year-old victim was found to not match him.