Jorge Torres (below) is the new suspect whose DNA has been matched to semen found on 9 year old Laura Hobbs who was found murdered along with her 8 year old friend Krystal Tobias in a park in Zion Illinois in 2005.
Jerry Hobbs (below) who was arrested and charged with the Murders of Krystal and Laura (his daughter) based on a confession which, in light of the DNA match to Torres, is demonstrably false.
Jurors have a hard time believing that anyone would ever confess to a crime they did not commit. They have an even harder time believing that someone would falsely confess to a murder, a crime that can lead to the death penalty of life without parole if the confessor is convicted. It is almost impossible for jurors to imagine a false confession to the most unspeakable of crimes -- the murder or rape-murder of a loved one. In these cases, prosecutors always argue to the jurors to convict the confessors because no one in his or her right mind would ever confess to killing a loved one. The truth is that there are many documented cases of proven false confessions to the murders of loved ones. And the Jerry Hobbs case which I have blogged about before is about to become the most recent addition to this list. http://blog.law.northwestern.edu/bluhm/2008/11/dna-test-results-suggest-that-jerry-hobbss-confession-is-false.html
Hobbs was arrested and charged with the most awful of crimes -- the brutal stabbing death of his 9 year old daughter and her 8 year old friend -- on Mother's Day in 2005. Hobbs discovered the bodies of the two children in a park near a wooded area. Lake County, Ill. police officers immediately focused on Hobbs, in part, because he had recently been released from prison in Texas and had a history of assaultive behavior (although none involved children). They took Hobbs into custody and grilled him relentlessly for nearly 20 hours. He finally broke down and signed a confession to the murders, one which was inconsistent with the crime scene evidence and frankly did not make much sense (Hobbs claimed he snapped when the eight year old friend of his daughter pulled a "potato knife on him"). Even before his confession, Hobbs's menacing mug shot was plastered on local news stations and even on the national news as a "person of interest" or "as a man in custody." And in little or no time after Hobbs' arrest, Lake County Prosecutor Mike Waller was calling for the death penalty. Case closed, right?
Not by any stretch of the imagination. Within a year of Hobbs' arrest, the case against him begin to disintegrate. DNA evidence found on clothing of Laura Hobbs and on her body (semen) did not match Hobbs' DNA. Hobbs' confession made no mention of a sexual assault. Despite the DNA exclusion, Lake County prosecutors persisted in their quest to convict Hobbs and kept the threat of the death penalty on the table. They fought and defeated Hobbs's motion for bond. On June 25, 2010, however, the crime scene DNA was matched to Jorge Torres, who was a friend of Krystal Tobias's brother. Torres, who was only 16 at the time of the crime, later joined the Marines but was discharged earlier this year after he was arrested and charged with a kidnapping and sexual assault in Arlington, Virginia. As a result of his arrest, his DNA was entered into the national database and a match was made. It is highly unlikely that Hobbs and Torres ever met and equally unlikely that Hobbs and Torres conspired to sexually assault Hobbs' daughter and her friend.
The DNA match to Torres may be a lifesaver for Hobbs. Lake County prosecutors were planning to try him in the Fall and they would have been able to use Hobbs' confession at his trial. A Lake County jury recently convicted Juan Rivera of the murder of 11 year old Holly Staker (for the third time) despite DNA which excluded Rivera. Jurors placed almost complete reliance on Rivera's confession and bought the prosecutor's closing argument that no innocent man could be made to confess to murdering and raping an 11 year old. When DNA evidence goes toe to toe with a confession to a murder and rape, jurors have repeatedly sided with the confession. For other examples, see the case of Billy Wayne Cope (covered Friday on Dateline's " The Mystery in Rock Hill" story at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38060491/ns/dateline_nbc/) and the case of the Norfolk Four (see http://www.norfolkfour.com/).
Prosecutors in Billy Cope's case argued to jurors that no father would ever confess to murdering his daughter unless he did it. No doubt Lake County prosecutors would have used the same tack when trying Hobbs. But Lake County prosecutors know that such an argument is untrue. Kevin Fox, from neighboring Will County confessed to killing his daughter and was cleared by DNA evidence within months of Hobbs's arrest. And Fox's exoneration is only the most recent in a long line of false confessions to the murders of loved ones. Gary Gauger, from neighboring McHenry County, falsely confessed to murdering his parents. Chicagoan Corethian Bell falsely confessed to murdering his mother. Outside of Illinois there are many other such false confession cases, including Melvin Nimer (nine year old Staten Island boy who confessed to killing his parents), Peter Reilly (Connecticut teenager who confessed to killing his mother), Marty Tankleff (Long Island teen who confessed to killing his parents), Ozem Goldwire (New Yorker who confessed to killing his sister), Michael Crowe (teen from San Diego suburb who confessed to killing his sister), Matthew Livers (Murdock, Nebraska man who confessed to killing his aunt and uncle). All of these defendants were cleared with the exception of Cope and Hobbs who still remain behind bars despite DNA evidence proving their innocence.
There are other cases which involve highly probable false confessions (the proof of innocence does not rise to the level of certainty of DNA). I am convinced that Karen Boes of Zeeland, Michigan falsely confessed to killing her daughter Robin by setting her house on fire, Gary Delisle of Detroit falsely confessed to killing his children by driving his car into the Detroit River, Huwe Burton of the Bronx falsely confessed to killing his mother, Antone Morris, also of Detroit, falsely confessed to and implicated his friend Vidale McDowell in the death of his mother, and Nicole Harris of Chicago falsely confessed to strangling her son to death (he accidentally strangled himself with a bedsheet).
I am in the process of collecting data on all of these cases and more. The one constant in almost all of these cases appears to be that the interrogations were extremely long (more than five hours and in some cases, several days) and the police used highly coercive tactics including lies about polygraph results, threats of harm (the death penalty) or promises of leniency (psychological help, lesser charges, etc). In some cases, the suspects were just exhausted and confessed to bring an end to the interrogations, while in others, they actually came to believe, if only temporarily, that they might have killed their loved ones in some kind of blackout state.
So to those who think that there is no way you would ever confess to killing a loved one, I say don't be so sure. You are naive to think that you could withstand the constant pressure of the modern psychological police interrogation.
Stay tuned for further posts on this subject.