Jerry Hobbs and Sheila Hollabaugh had their problems. They argued too much. Weren't getting along like a pair of love birds.
When police in Zion, Illinois, a rustbelt town down on its luck, found the bodies of Laura Hobbs and her friend Krystal Tobias in a park, they questioned the parents first. Didn't take long to learn that the couple had some serious relationship issues.
Turns out that Jerry Hobbs had gotten out of prison in Texas about a month earlier, and came up to Zion to be with his honey. Once a felon, always a felon. The cops brought him in.
Cops see horrific crimes all the time. They've had enough experience to know that even the father of a little girl can't be ruled out as her murderer. Even when semen was left on the child's clothes. There's some sick men out there. No scenario can be eliminated until the evidence shows otherwise.
A simple man is easy to crack. Long before the semen was analyzed for DNA, Mr. Hobbs confessed to killing his own flesh and blood. He confessed to stabbing two nine-year-old girls multiple times, sticking the knife into his daughter's eyes.
Fingernail scrapings taken from the two little corpses was tested and failed to match Mr. Hobbs. The DNA from the semen failed to match Mr. Hobbs.
No problem for Lake County Prosecutor Michael Mermel. He had that confession, you see, and to hell with DNA. That semen could have come from the child rubbing up against a tree in a spot that was a popular lover's tryst.
What the fuck, you say?
Due to errors, the first attempt to match the DNA to a national database turned up blank.
Mr. Hobbs, meanwhile, sat in jail. Mr. Mermel had his perp and he wasn't going to let him go. No bail was granted. The father was locked up in 2005 and left there while Mermel rounded up enough evidence to make a solid case. Clearly, the semen on the tree scenario wasn't going to fly with a jury of reasonably intelligent people.
The DNA match was repeated and wouldn't you know but there was a match. To a man who was already in jail in Virginia. Who lived two doors down from the Hollabaugh residence at the time of the murders.
Mr. Hobbs is due in court, and it's anyone's guess as to whether or not he'll be released.
It's not the first time that Mr. Mermel has ignored DNA evidence that didn't come from the man he wanted to prosecute. Given that track record, it's not likely that a Lake County judge would continue to hold Mr. Hobbs.
How likely is it that Mr. Mermel will continue to be gainfully employed by the County of Lake? Does he get canned before or after Mr. Hobbs sues the County for prosecutorial misconduct and every other error a greedy lawyer can think up?
In the meantime, the Lake County Board will be meeting with their insurance agents to make sure the County's coverage is up-to-date. There's a big claim for damages coming.