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Relative Eyed In Girls' Murders

Police sources have told the Chicago Tribune that an individual will be charged today in connection with the stabbing deaths of two young girls from a small town north of Chicago, according to a report on the Tribune's Web site.

Sources are telling CBS Station WBBM-TV that they have a suspect in the case, and that the suspect is a very close relative of eight-year-old Laura Hobbs.

"We don't have anything to hide," said Laura's grandmother, Emily Hollabaugh. "They've come in. They've taken clothes, they've taken pictures, they've taken the computer in case she was ever on the Internet, in a chat room or something."

The family went on to say that the person in custody does have a criminal record, but they also say that person is innocent.

Arthur Hollabaugh says he had searched through the night for his missing granddaughter when he spotted something in bushes part way down a ravine: a child's bicycle.

Minutes later, he said Tuesday, his son-in-law, Jerry Hobbs, was screaming that he had found the bodies of his 8-year-old daughter, Laura Hobbs, and her best friend, Krystal Tobias, who disappeared together on a Mother's Day bike ride.

"I went and I seen them from a distance," Hollabaugh, 51, told The Associated Press. "It was clear they were laying there."

Laura and 9-year-old Krystal were stabbed repeatedly and left a few yards off a wooded bike path near their homes in this small city near the Wisconsin line. On Tuesday, a memorial of flowers and balloons marked the area where the bodies were found a day earlier.

Police weren't commenting on the case Tuesday morning, but Hollabaugh said investigators were questioning his son-in-law and had also talked to Laura's siblings about Hobbs. Donald Meadie, assistant commander of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, confirmed late Monday that Jerry Hobbs had been questioned but said there were no suspects. He declined to comment further.

Hollabaugh said Hobbs had just returned to the area about a month earlier to reunite with Laura's mother after serving time in a Texas prison.

"Jerry just got out of prison for aggravated assault and I think they're holding that against him," Hollabaugh said. "I don't think he did it." Hobbs could not be reached for comment Tuesday; Hollabaugh said he was still with the police.

Police searched the family home and Hollabaugh said they took measurements of his shoe soles. "They went through our stuff, took clothes," he said, adding that they took the computer to see if the girl had been on any Internet chat rooms.

Grief counselors were being brought to Beulah Park Elementary, where the girls were best friends in the same second grade class. The pupils just read "Charlotte's Web" and "A Taste of Blackberries," both of which deal with loss, school superintendent Constance Collins said Tuesday.

"I think that those stories will serve as an excellent backdrop for what we're going to have to deal with today," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."

"We will be monitoring the students," Collins said on CBS News' The Early Show. "There will be a time that they will be able to interact with others if they need assistance beyond what the school can provide. We have community resources as well as faith-based organizations that are ready to step up and assist in any way possible."

The girls' bodies were discovered in Beulah Park about four blocks from the school on Monday shortly after dawn. Police said no weapons were found and there was no evidence of sexual assault.

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.

Laura Unrein, who lives near Beulah Park, said the area where the bodies were found is well known as a place to avoid. The heavily wooded park has a paved bike path, a ravine and trails made by mountain bikes.

"There have been incidents of kids beating up people and taking their wallets and park rangers have had to shoo people out of there for hunting illegally," she said, adding that it's also a popular hangout for teens to drink.

The parents of one of the girls had reported her missing about 8:50 p.m. Sunday, about two hours after she was expected home, Police Chief Doug Malcolm said. The parents of the other girl called shortly afterward, and authorities with rescue dogs began searching.

Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said it appears the girls were killed where their bodies were found; there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

"They were best friends. When one left, the other left. They were always together," said Unrein.

Collins that Hobbs was very artsy and also enjoyed reading and taking the puppets in the classroom and pretending that she was acting. She said Tobias also had a sense of humor and was very witty.

"It's been shocking for all of us," Collins added. "Their loss is felt by everyone here in the community."

The killings stunned this town about 45 miles north of Chicago, prompting police and Beulah Park Elementary School officials to escort children directly onto buses at the end of the school day.

"I know that they were very sweet girls," said Julie Dobnikar, who teaches second grade at the school, adding that the girls' teacher is "very distraught right now."

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