A case surrounding the stabbing deaths of two young girls five years ago is getting a fresh review after DNA evidence recovered from the scene matched another man already in custody.
A Lake County lawyer said Tuesday he hopes the new information will help clear his client, Jerry Hobbs, who has been charged with the deaths of his 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old friend.
"Since we developed this profile, we have been confident that it leads to only one conclusion, and that is that our client is innocent," said attorney Keith Grant, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Hobbs has been in jail since being charged with the deaths of his daughter and her friend. Their bodies were found beaten and stabbed in a Zion, Ill., park on Mothers' Day 2005.
"I've been in this business for over 30 years. This is probably the most horrific crime I've ever seen," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said at the time.
Prosecutors knew the DNA obtained from fingernail scrapings and semen found on Laura Hobbs' body didn't match that of her 39-year-old father. But Jerry Hobbs, who had a long criminal record, continued to be the focus of their investigation.
"They sometimes exclude other viable theories, or they just don't pay attention to evidence that doesn't support their theory," said Douglas Godfrey, a professor of legal research and writing at Kent College.
The girls' deaths came less than a month after Jerry Hobbs had been released from jail on an aggravated assault conviction, and after a 20-hour interrogation, prosecutors said Hobbs confessed to the crimes.
According to the official report, Hobbs told police he'd become angry with his daughter, who had been grounded at the time, because she refused to come home from playing with her friends.
He was arrested, charged with the girls' deaths and is currently awaiting trial.
Last month the DNA profile came up with a match with another man already in custody out-of-state. Authorities would not identify the man or the reason he is in jail, but agreed to take a fresh look at the case, which includes a task force and a re-interviewing of witnesses.
Still, they said it’s too early to say if the new information will exonerate Jerry Hobbs, who has since disavowed his confession.
"Hopefully he'll be able to get out and move on with his life," said Hobbs' long-time girlfriend, Sheila Hollabaugh, adding that she never believed Jerry Hobbs killed their daughter.
"He was a loving father. He loved his kids. He would die for his kids," she said in a telephone interview from her Pennsylvania home. "They've had this evidence for years and they did nothing about it."
Jerry Hobbs' trial is scheduled for October and prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty. He is due in court Wednesday for a pretrial hearing.