WAUKEGAN, Ill. - Jerry Branton Hobbs III, accused of murdering his 8-year-old daughter and her second-grade classmate as they played in a park, told prosecutors he punched and then stabbed the girls 31 times because his daughter refused to go home with him.
During a hearing at the Lake County courthouse yesterday, prosecutors described how the man admitted in videotaped and oral statements to the "slaughter" of Laura Hobbs and her best friend, 9-year-old Krystal Tobias.
Hobbs, 34, said he sought out the girls in a wooded area of Beulah Park on Mother's Day when Laura was late returning home. When she refused to leave, he reportedly told investigators, he punched her at least twice in the face.
He punched Krystal when she came to her friend's aid, and he claimed to have taken a small knife away from the child. Then, Hobbs said, he stabbed and killed them.
"Laura had 20 stab wounds. Nine were in the neck," said Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey J. Pavletic. "She was stabbed once in each eye."
Investigators still were searching yesterday for the weapon. But Michael J. Waller, the Lake County state's attorney, said he didn't believe Krystal was carrying a blade.
Hobbs, who has a lengthy criminal record, was released from a Texas prison last month after serving two years for domestic assault.
Restrained by ankle and wrist shackles, Hobbs clenched his hands together and stared at the ground yesterday while prosecutors outlined their case.
Laura and Krystal disappeared Sunday, and Hobbs joined the search. Authorities said he reported finding the bodies before dawn Monday.
When investigators interviewed Hobbs on Monday, he told them he couldn't bear to get closer than 20 feet to the bodies. But police grew suspicious when Hobbs "described the wounds in detail, details he couldn't have known unless he'd been much closer," Waller said.
Prosecutors said Hobbs later told them he was upset with Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, for being too lenient with their daughter for having taken $40 out of her purse.