ZION, Ill. (AP) – Fresh from a two-year prison stint in Texas, Jerry Hobbs boarded a bus last month that would take him straight to Illinois, where his longtime girlfriend and their children were waiting.

The couple had decided to make a fresh start in Illinois after enduring a rocky 12-year relationship that was marred by Hobbs’ repeated trips to prison for offenses ranging from assault to marijuana possession.

On Tuesday, Hobbs was back behind bars after being arrested on murder charges in the Mother’s Day stabbings of his 8-year-old daughter and the little girl’s best friend, who were killed after they went biking in a park.

Hobbs, 34, had led police to the bodies just off a wooded bike path early Monday, claiming he spotted them while searching for his daughter, the girl’s grandfather, Arthur Hollabaugh, told The Associated Press.

Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9, had been beaten and stabbed repeatedly in the woods and left to die, Coroner Richard Keller said. The girls were found side-by-side and did not appear to have been sexually assaulted. They appeared to have been killed Sunday evening near the area where they were found, he said.

Prosecutor Michael Waller said in announcing the charges that he could not discuss possible motives for the killings, but prosecutors said more details would come out when Hobbs appears in court Wednesday morning.

Hollabaugh said the family would not be able to afford an attorney. The public defender’s office said Tuesday that it had not been asked to take the case.

Authorities said additional charges could be filed, but they did not specify what they might be.

“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.

Outside the Tobias home, Krystal’s 15-year-old brother, Alberto, said he had never met Hobbs but knew Hobbs was searching with his own family the night his sister was killed.

“We never thought a father would do that to a daughter,” Alberto Segura said. “They were just babies. They didn’t do anything wrong.”

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

Before being released April 12, he had served two years in a Texas prison for chasing neighbors with a chain saw during an argument with Laura’s mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, according to Wichita County, Texas, Assistant District Attorney Rick Mahler.

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 of probation but failed to appear for required meetings, so his probation was revoked in 2003 and he was imprisoned.

Hobbs and Hollabaugh had three children, and Hollabaugh had a 13-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

Hobbs had been living with the Hollabaughs after his release, Arthur Hollabaugh said. 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 authorities announced charges against Hobbs. “I don’t think he did it.”

Hollabaugh said authorities confiscated clothes and a computer from the house.

He described the search for his missing granddaughter and said the two men 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.

Hollabaugh said he saw the bodies from a distance. “It was clear they were laying there.”

Zion is a city of about 22,000 people between Chicago and Milwaukee.


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