Live

Watch CBSN Live

Accused Dad Has Checkered Past

When the father of a missing 8-year-old found her bloodied body in a ravine, next to her lifeless best friend, it seemed every parent's worst nightmare.

Jerry Hobbs, just out of prison, led police to the girls himself. They wanted to know how he found them. They kept asking him questions. Finally, after hours of being interviewed, Hobbs was charged with both murders, a crime that stunned this small city near the Wisconsin line.

"I think its safe to say his reaction to questions piqued the officers' interest to question him further," prosecutor Michael Waller said in announcing the charges Tuesday.

On CBS News' The Early Show, Waller also noted that the bodies were found in an area that was pretty remote.

"If you were doing a search, you wouldn't probably go there in the first instance or as early as he did. And it raised some suspicions," he said.

CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that Hobbs confessed to the killings, a crime apparently prompted by his anger at Laura for disobeying her mother. He told of looking for the little girl in these woods, coming upon her and her friend, punching each in the face, then repeatedly stabbing them.

Waller would not discuss possible motives for the killings but said details would come out when Hobbs appeared at a bond hearing Wednesday. He said he couldn't comment on whether Hobbs confessed.

He told NBC's "Today" on Wednesday that there had been "a minor discipline problem" with Laura, but it had been resolved and was not considered the motive.

"This horrific crime has terrorized and traumatized the Zion community and, I think it's safe to say, people of good will everywhere," Waller said. "There's no rational explanation or reasonable motive that can be ascribed to an act of horror like this."

Hobbs, 34, took authorities to the bodies just off a bike path early Monday, claiming he had spotted them while searching for his missing daughter with the girl's grandfather, Arthur Hollabaugh.

Hobbs was questioned through the day Monday and again Tuesday in the deaths of Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9. Both girls had been beaten and stabbed multiple times and then left to die in the woods on Mother's Day.

The county coroner, Richard Keller, said the girls were found side-by-side, facing up and did not appear to have been sexually assaulted. They appeared to have been killed near where they were found, he said.

"If it was him, then good thing they brought him down," said Krystal's 15-year-old brother, Alberto Segura. "We never thought a father would do that to a daughter. They were just babies. They didn't do anything wrong."

Hobbs has an extensive criminal history dating to 1990 in Texas, including arrests for assault and resisting arrest, according to records kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

For the two years up until April 12, he was in a Texas prison serving time for assault involving an argument with Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, during which he grabbed a chain saw and chased neighbors through the trailer park where they lived, according to Rick Mahler, assistant district attorney for Wichita County, Texas.

No one was hurt in the 2001 incident and someone subdued Hobbs by hitting him in the back with a shovel, Mahler said. Hobbs was sentenced to 10 years probation but failed to appear for required meetings, so his probation was revoked in 2003 and he was imprisoned until last month.

Waller told Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler that there was no indication of Hobbs planning the murders.


"I think we're dealing with an individual who acts spontaneously, has difficulty controlling his anger or, in this case, his rage," Waller said.

Waller added that he may seek the death penalty in the case, but will first complete a full investigation on the facts of the case and the background of the defendant before deciding.

"I've done this for a long time," he said. "I've learned that you don't make a decision like this in the heat of the moment. In due course, when we have all the information available, I'll make a decision as to whether or not to seek the death penalty."

Arthur Hollabaugh said Hobbs had been living with the Hollabaughs after his release. He said he worried authorities might be trying to railroad Hobbs in their search for the girls' killer.

"Jerry just got out of prison for aggravated assault, and I think they're holding that against him," Hollabaugh said before police announced charges against Hobbs. "I don't think he did it."

Hollabaugh described the search for his missing granddaughter and said he and Hobbs were in the woods shortly before dawn Monday when they spotted Laura's bike part way down a ravine in the brush.

Minutes later, he said, Hobbs was screaming that he had found the bodies. "I went and I seen them from a distance," said Hollabaugh. "It was clear they were laying there."

Zion, along Lake Michigan, was founded in 1901 by a religious faith healer as a utopian community. It has about 22,000 residents but retains a quiet — at times, rural — feel despite being on the edge of both the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas.

Parents upset about the police response packed a school gymnasium Tuesday night to hear public officials discuss the slayings, the charges and safety in the community.

Segura joined the group but said his mother was distraught over the loss of her daughter.

"She doesn't want to live anymore," he said. "She was the family's little girl and now she's dead."

At a prayer vigil later Tuesday evening, Krystal's family and about 200 community members gathered outside her home and somberly walked the block and a half to Laura's house. The slain girls' families hugged each other and began crying.

Through tears, Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, read a poem written by her daughter's classmate. The "little angels," it said, "died too young."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.