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Former Murder Suspect Suing Police for Forced False Confession

Former Murder Suspect Suing Police for Forced False Confession

Jerry Hobbs was released after five years in jail in the slayings of his daughter, 8, and her friend, 9.

Chicago Tribune via Yellowbrix

December 02, 2010

ZION, IL – A former Zion resident who spent five years in Lake County Jail charged with the murders of his 8-year-old daughter and her friend, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging police violated his civil rights by using physical and psychological abuse to force him to falsely confess.

Lake County prosecutors pursued the death penalty while Jerry Hobbs “languished in jail,” despite DNA evidence discovered in 2007 — two years after the murders — that pointed to another suspect, according to the lawsuit.

“During his weakest moment … the officers brutalized him and manipulated him into the horrific confession that he was responsible for killing his daughter and his daughter’s friend when, in fact, Jerry was as innocent of that crime as you or I are,” said his lawyer, Locke Bowman.

The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of damages, but “given the magnitude of the injury, the damages that Jerry Hobbs is entitled to are substantial,” said Bowman, director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law.

Hobbs, 40, who lives in Wichita Falls, Texas, was released from jail Aug. 4 after the Lake County state’s attorney abruptly dropped charges. Prosecutors said at the time that they had learned DNA evidence matched another man in custody out of state.

That man is identified in the lawsuit as Jorge Torrez, 22, a former Marine who grew up in Zion. He was convicted of abduction and rape in October in an unrelated case in Arlington, Va.

Hobbs was accused of killing his daughter, Laura, and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9, in May 2005 after he reported finding their mutilated bodies lying side by side in a thickly wooded Zion park. Semen found in Laura later indicated that she had been sexually assaulted, according to court records.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago names as defendants the individual police officers who interrogated Hobbs over 20 hours, as well as the agencies and cities that employ them. They are:

Domenic Cappelluti, Charles Schletz and William Valko of the Waukegan Police Department; Andrew Jones of the Vernon Hills Police Department; Kevin Harris of the Zion Police Department; Timothy Jonites and Robert Dever of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department; Thomas Derken of the Buffalo Grove Police Department; Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran Jr.; and John Doe, described as a police officer whose name and employer are unknown to the plaintiff.

The officers are members of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.

State’s Attorney Michael Waller did not return calls.

“I wasn’t sheriff when this happened,” said Curran, who took office in December 2006. “There is no possible way, shape or form they could tie me into this at all.”

Newton Finn, corporation counsel for the city of Waukegan, said he had not seen the lawsuit but expected it after Hobbs’ release.

“We want the truth to come out, whether that turns out to be in favor of the city or not,” Finn said. “Whatever that may cost, it costs.”

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