Editorial: The needed closure of a murder trial
Two little girls, 8 and 9 years old, ride their bikes to a park to play. They never return home.
The father of one of them finds them the next morning, both dead in the wooded park within earshot of the bike path.
Imagine the father's horror at finding that.
The fear that struck the community.
It happened in May 2005 in Zion, a small working class community along Lake Michigan near the Wisconsin state line.
If you're from Zion or anywhere close you still do remember.
They were crimes so horrific and unusual that The New York Times even put two reporters on the story.
The man now charged with their murders has been incarcerated in Virginia, where he will spend the rest of his days. Jorge Avila-Torrez has been sentenced to death and five consecutive life sentences there for killing 20-year-old Amanda Snell and for stalking and attacking three other women.
Avila-Torrez, 25, was 16 and living in Zion when best friends Krystal Tobias, 9, and Laura Hobbs, 8, were killed.
It was Laura's dad, Jerry Hobbs, who was targeted by authorities immediately and who, after 24 hours of interrogation, confessed to the crimes.
Two years later, Hobbs' attorney was made aware of DNA from someone else on Laura's body. But Hobbs would spend three more years in prison before authorities implicated Avila-Torrez to the Zion case through DNA taken from the Virginia murder case.
Now imagine if John Wayne Gacy had killed in Indiana or Wisconsin and had been tried and convicted there before the discoveries of the bodies in his Norwood Park Township crawl space.
Would Cook County prosecutors have forgone a trial, content that Gacy was behind bars somewhere else? Not a chance.
So when Avila-Torrez's attorney, Jed Stone, says, "When a guy is serving five life sentences and been sentenced to death, I don't see the point of spending resources to have another trial," we appreciate his appeal to financial conservatism but overall find his point myopic.
Deputy Police Chief Clyde Watkins told reporters at a news conference the day the girls' bodies were found: "It's a crime against not only those kids but against all of us."
Don't the people of Lake County deserve a chance to know what really happened -- especially in light of Jerry Hobbs' wrongful conviction?
This won't change anything for Avila-Torrez. Whether he is found guilty or innocent, he still will spend the rest of his life in prison. For him, this trial will be a vacation from hard time.
But the people of Zion deserve to know. The family and friends of Krystal and Laura deserve to know.
It's not just Avila-Torrez's day in court. It's Krystal's and Laura's too.