Attorney tries to block evidence in Jorge Avila-Torrez trial
Former Marine accused in one of Lake County's most notorious cases
The attorney for a former Marine accused of committing one of Lake County's most notorious murders is trying to block key evidence from being admitted at trial.
Jed Stone, attorney for Jorge Avila-Torrez, filed a motion in court Thursday asking that Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes not allow DNA evidence taken after the murders of 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias. Stone also asked Shanes to prohibit use of jailhouse audio recordings in which, prosecutors claim, Avila-Torrez admitted to the murders.
Avila-Torrez did not appear in court Thursday. His presence was waived by attorneys.
Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said after court that he will answer the motions when both sides return to court Sept 14.
Stone said the DNA evidence shows there is "no statistical probability" proving Avila-Torrez, 28, formerly of Zion, was the only person who could have killed Tobias and Hobbs in 2005. In the motion, he said, the DNA sample prosecutors are using to put Avila-Torrez at the crime scene is substandard and weak.
"To use DNA to say this man is guilty, I don't think they (prosecutors) have it," Stone said after the hearing.
As for the jailhouse recordings, Stone said the prisoner who wore a wiretap to make the recordings is dead, cannot be cross-examined and did not know how to properly use the recording device.
Osama El-Atari, 37, was jailed in 2010 on charges he scammed several banks out of $53 million. In exchange for a lesser sentence, El-Atari agreed to wear a wiretap for police to record conversations he was having with Avila-Torrez, Stone said previously.
El-Atari captured Avila-Torrez confessing to killing the Zion girls and the 2009 murder of a Navy sailor at a barracks in Virginia, Stone said previously.
Avila-Torrez was found guilty in 2014 for killing the sailor. El-Atari testified about the jailhouse confession and the Zion murders during Avila-Torrez's sentencing hearing.
El-Atari was found shot and killed in February in a pickup truck in Maryland. Officials said the murder was part of a robbery and had nothing to do with the wiretapping.
Avila-Torrez was returned to Lake County in 2014 to face charges for the murders of Tobias and Hobbs. Authorities said Avila-Torrez was 16 at the time and lived in the neighborhood.
Police first charged Laura Hobbs' father, Jerry Hobbs, after he found the girls' bodies. Hobbs confessed to the killings but was exonerated because DNA evidence pointed to Avila-Torrez. Hobbs spent five years in the Lake County jail and later sued the county for wrongful imprisonment.
Avila-Torrez has been sentenced to death for the murder of the sailor and to five consecutive life sentences plus 168 years for stalking and raping three women in northern Virginia.
If found guilty of the Zion murders, he could be sentenced to 100 more years in prison.