Friday, August 6, 2010


"Hobbs was questioned by police for more than 20 hours after he found the girls' bodies in Beulah Park, then signed a written confession, which he read out loud as police videotaped him.

While Hobbs' attorneys later challenged both his confession and the DNA evidence, which a defense expert showed in 2008 didn't match Hobbs, Lake County Judge Fred Foreman ruled both times in favor of prosecutors."



"Charged five years ago with fatally stabbing his young daughter and her friend, Jerry Hobbs III left the Lake County Jail a free man Wednesday," the Chicago Sun-Times story by reporters Dan Rozek and Vernon Clement Jones, published in the Chicago Sun-Times on August 5, 2010 bgins under the heading, "DNA ends case against Jerry Hobbs:| Father freed after murder charges dropped."

"In a court hearing that took less than a minute, prosecutors dropped murder charges that could have sent Hobbs to Death Row for the 2005 killings of Laura Hobbs, 8, and her friend, Krystal Tobias, 9," the story continues.

"Jerry Hobbs is glad he's free after five years in jail, his attorney says, "But he's lost his daughter, he's lost his family, he's lost everything." Laura Hobbs (bottom), 8, and her friend, Krystal Tobias, 9, were killed in 2005.

DNA evidence recovered from his daughter's body -- and matched in June to another man, according to authorities -- prompted prosecutors to drop all charges against Hobbs, 39.

After the brief hearing, deputies led Hobbs, who was handcuffed and shackled, out of the courtroom through a side door, then out of the jail where he had been held since he was charged with killing the two girls on Mother's Day 2005.

He reportedly was on his way to his mother's home in Texas.

With his release, Hobbs is finally free to search for justice for his daughter, whom he found stabbed to death in a park near the family's Zion home, his attorney said.

"Jerry has never been anything other than a grieving father who found his daughter's body discarded in the woods like so much garbage," said Keith Grant, a Lake County assistant public defender who was one of Hobbs' attorneys. "His goal is to see justice done for his daughter."

Lake County authorities said they dropped the charges because the DNA evidence matches a 21-year-old Marine, a former Zion man, who is facing charges of attacking three women in Virginia. In 2005, that man lived in the same neighborhood as both murdered girls and was a friend of Krystal Tobias' older brother, authorities said.

"I believe the evidence points to another individual as having committed these crimes," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said during a news conference after Hobbs' release. While no charges have been filed, police and prosecutors are working hard to wrap up the case, he said.

"Our priority at this point is holding someone responsible for these murders," Waller said.

Relatives of the man jailed in Virginia say they don't believe that DNA evidence links him to the girls' slayings, and they point to Hobbs' release as proof that authorities have made mistakes.

"We believe that he is being set up," said the man's sister. "The police thought they had the right man last time. What's to say they haven't made the same mistake again?"

The man's family maintains he is innocent not only of the Zion slayings but of the attacks he's charged with in Virginia.

"If you know him, you know he could never do any of this," she said, cradling her face in her hands as her parents stood by her.

Hobbs was questioned by police for more than 20 hours after he found the girls' bodies in Beulah Park, then signed a written confession, which he read out loud as police videotaped him.

While Hobbs' attorneys later challenged both his confession and the DNA evidence, which a defense expert showed in 2008 didn't match Hobbs, Lake County Judge Fred Foreman ruled both times in favor of prosecutors.

Though the charges against Hobbs were dropped, Waller said he thinks police and prosecutors acted properly.

"I don't believe law enforcement did anything wrong," Waller said.

The lengthy pretrial process and the DNA evidence that pointed investigators toward another possible suspect is an indication that the legal system functioned properly, Waller said.

"I would say it shows the system works," Waller said.

Grant bristled at that suggestion, noting that "for five years, Jerry Hobbs sat wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit."

Grant said he still doesn't know why Hobbs signed a written confession. "I do know it was false," Grant said.

When Hobbs was told last month of the new DNA match, his main concern was to make sure that "we do justice for Laura," Grant said. While Hobbs was pleased to be released from jail, that doesn't erase the pain of his daughter's death or the separation from his two other children and the end of his relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Sheila Hollabaugh, who was the mother of all three of his children.

"He's glad that he's out of custody now," Grant said. "But he's lost his daughter, he's lost his family, he's lost everything.""

The story can be found at:,CST-NWS-hobbs05.article



According to the site, (When he's not blogging, Matt works as the Online Communications Manager at the Innocence Project. Before the Innocence Project, Matt wrote and edited for several newspapers and magazines, worked on documentary films and managed an ecolodge in Ecuador. Matt is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.")

"After Five Years in Jail, Set Free Without an Apology:

"For Jerry Hobbs, the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty' didn't exactly apply.

The Illinois man spent five long years in an Illinois jail awaiting trial for allegedly killing his daughter and another young girl. Earlier this week, DNA testing proved his innocence, but prosecutors didn't apologize as they opened the jail doors to free him.

All they said was that the state didn't have the evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So he was kept incarcerated — for five years — as law enforcement tried in vain to build a case against him, all while ignoring clues that pointed in other directions.

How did an innocent man get stuck in jail for five years? The saga began when Hobbs was arrested for the double murder after he apparently signed a confession following long interrogations over a 24-hour period. He quickly recanted, and a year after his arrest, DNA tests on semen from one victim's body pointed to another unknown man.

Yet despite this evidence, prosecutors kept Hobbs in jail, claiming they would try him eventually. In fact, his case never made it to trial — instead he spent five years waiting for the news he received this week to arrive. It wasn't until the DNA was found to match another man in June that momentum finally built to secure Hobbs' release.

The case is a textbook example of an overzealous prosecutor who was unwilling to admit a mistake. We write frequently here on about wrongful convictions overturned through DNA tests after decades. Hobbs is a testimonial to the fact that wrongful arrests — even those caught before conviction — can likewise cause unimaginable disruption and harm for years.

Take the similar case of Kevin Fox, who falsely confessed to killing his daughter in Illinois in 2004. Fox was arrested and held in jail for eight months, until DNA tests pointed to another man and Fox was set free. Eight months is a long time to spend behind bars, but it's also a somewhat reasonable period in which to conduct an investigation and forensic tests. Once the results ruled out Fox, he was freed. Though prosecutors had DNA results almost as quickly in Hobbs' case, they decided to wait four more years to act. (An excellent Chicago Tribune piece laid the cases side by side last month.)

False confessions are all too common. More than a quarter of the 258 people exonerated through DNA testing to date offered false confessions or admissions. To prevent these occurrences, it's critical that we electronically record all interrogations.

But misguided and negligent prosecutions like those Jerry Hobbs launched are another matter. Yes, prosecutors have a difficult and important job, and it isn't easy to decide when to release a murder suspect and when to press charges. It is clear, however, that leads in the Hobbs case were left to sit idle for far too long. DNA evidence of another man's involvement sat in the hands of police and prosecutors for four years while Jerry Hobbs sat in jail. Would that have been the case if a celebrity or a millionaire had instead been in Hobbs' shoes? Or would the media and the public have pressed prosecutors to put him on trial or drop the charges?

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial." Instead, Jerry Hobbs was considered guilty until proven innocent while he sat in jail for five years. And the truth is, if it hadn't been for a DNA database hit that identified another man, he could still be facing the death penalty today.

Full disclosure: Although I work at the Innocence Project when I'm not blogging here, views expressed here are mine alone. The Innocence Project was not involved in Hobbs' case."

The commentary can be found at:


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be accessed at:

For a breakdown of some of the cases, issues and controversies this Blog is currently following, please turn to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;;