Feds seek death penalty against Zion murder suspect----Ex-Marine accused of
killing petty officer in her Virginia barracks; DNA links him to 2005 Zion
Federal prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Jorge Torrez, the
former Marine from Zion linked by DNA to the vicious slayings of 2 young girls
in a Lake County park in 2005, according to court records.
Authorities intend to pursue Torrez's execution if he is convicted in a crime
that occurred years after the local killings — the 2009 slaying of 20-year-old
Navy Petty Officer Amanda Snell in her barracks in Arlington County, Va.
But prosecutors wrote in a motion filed Wednesday in Virginia federal court
that if Torrez is convicted of that murder, they will try to show at sentencing
that he stabbed 9-year-old Krystal Tobias to death and raped and killed
8-year-old Laura Hobbs in Zion seven years ago.
Until 2010, those killings had been attributed to Laura's father, Jerry Hobbs,
who spent 5 years in jail awaiting trial.
Hobbs' prosecution is one of four recent cases in which Lake County prosecutors
pursued a suspect after DNA appeared to point away from that person.
Authorities knew for years that semen found inside Laura Hobbs' body didn't
match her father, but prosecutors said it didn't point to his innocence because
the DNA could have found its way inside the girl as she played in a spot where
couples had sex.
Yet Lake County prosecutors dropped the charges against Hobbs and released him
in August 2010 after Torrez was arrested in a series of nonfatal attacks on
women in Virginia and, according to court records, his DNA profile was found to
match the semen recovered from the Zion girl.
Federal prosecutors rarely succeed at having the death penalty enforced. In the
last 35 years, federal courts have ordered death for 3 men, one of whom was
Oklahoma City bomberTimothy McVeigh,who killed 168 people, according to the
Death Penalty Information Center.
Such executions are rare because defendants' lawyers often have access to more
resources in U.S. court than they would in state courts, said Kevin McNally,
director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, which supports
lawyers defending clients from execution.
Federal death penalty cases are split into two parts: the trial to determine
guilt or innocence, and the sentencing phase, which is like a second trial in
which jurors determine whether the defendant lives or dies, McNally said.
Sentencing hearings can move quickly in state court, but the 2nd phase of a
federal death penalty trial can take a month, he said.
Previewing their case against Torrez, prosecutors' motion Wednesday listed a
host of alleged crimes and inappropriate behavior by the defendant.
Torrez was 16 when Krystal Tobias, the younger sister of a close friend, was
found dead alongside Laura Hobbs in Zion in 2005. Jerry Hobbs confessed to the
crime, though he would later say officers coerced his admission through
psychological manipulation during an interrogation that lasted nearly 24 hours.
No one has been charged in the murders since Hobbs' release. In a jailhouse
phone call to the Tribune last year, Torrez said he has a defense, in spite of
the finding of DNA linking him to the crime.
"I'm not denying that (the DNA) is mine," he said. "Once I tell them how my DNA
got there, I'm walking."
Along with that crime and the killing of the Navy petty officer in July 2009,
federal prosecutors plan to show that Torrez engaged in aggressive behavior
against women as a teenager, tying up female friends on occasions in 2005 and
2009, the second time with a dog leash, according to the court motion.
In 2009 and 2010, Torrez visited websites featuring rape-themed pornography and
looked up directions on how to make the incapacitating chemical chloroform,
He was arrested in February 2010 and later convicted of the abduction and
brutal sexual assault of a 23-year-old woman in Virginia during a series of
attacks on women. He is serving 5 life sentences plus 168 years for those
crimes. After those convictions, he was charged with Snell's death, though
prosecutors have not explained how they believe he killed her.
While jailed after his arrest, Torrez continued to behave threateningly to
witnesses and guards, prosecutors said. Torrez plotted to have the victims of
his Virginia state crimes killed, prosecutors said, and he drew a map to one
He also fabricated a small metal tool to unlock his handcuffs while he was
jailed, prosecutors said. And, later, Torrez wrote a letter to his sister
saying he would kill the children of a correctional officer if the guard
continued to call him names, prosecutors alleged.
Neither Torrez's lawyer nor family members could be reached for comment. Lake
County prosecutors also could not be reached for comment.
(source: Chicago Tribune)