Jorge Torrez, 26, formerly of the 2100 block of Gabriel Avenue in Zion, appeared in court last week to face charges in the murders of Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias when they were 8 and 9 years old, respectively. They were murdered on Mother's Day 2005 and their bodies were found the next day, May 9, in Beulah Park.
Torrez pled not guilty to 18 counts of first-degree murder in the court room of Judge Daniel Shanes on Nov. 20. The prosecution is being led by Assistant State’s attorneys Ari Fisz and Steve Scheller. His defense is by Jed Stone and LaTonya Burton.
The two girls had been beaten and brutally stabbed many times. Both girls had been second-graders in Beulah Park School in Zion. Laura's father, Jerry Hobbs, had been charged with the crimes but was released after about five years when Torrez's DNA proved to be a match with the girl's murders. Hobbs sued a number of agencies and was awarded about $8 million. He reportedly moved back to Texas.
Torrez's DNA became available when he was charged in Virginia for crimes against women, which files the DNA at the beginning of a case. Torrez was charged with the murders of the girls about seven years after they took place. His other trials had to be completed before he could appear in Lake County.
Torrez had been a friend of Krystal Tobias's half-brother and he knew the girls. He attended Zion-Benton Township High School and lived near Beulah Park. He was 16 at the time of the murders.
If found guilty, Torrez would face a life sentence without parole for the crimes. That could be a moot point since he has been sentenced to death in a murder case which he is appealing, in addition to already serving more than five life sentences plus an additional 168 years in prison for rape, robbery and abduction while he was in the Navy in Virginia. He was found guilty of the murder of a 20-year-old female Navy petty officer.
States Attorney Mike Nerheim expects this trial to bring closure to the families and friends of the victims.
Judge Shanes scheduled a court hearing for 9 a.m. in Court C202 on Dec. 19, and a trial for Jan. 26.