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Man imprisoned in Virginia charged with killing two Zion girls in 2005

Jorge "George" Torrez, 21, and an ex-Marine, was arrested and in custody for abduction of a female in February in Arlington, Virginia. His DNA is being linked to the murders of two young girls, Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias, in Zion in May of 2005. | Special to Sun-Times Media

A man already serving five life sentences in a Virginia prison has been charged with first-degree murder for the 2005 stabbings of 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias, 9.

Jorge Torrez was charged with the crimes some seven years after Laura’s father, Jerry Hobbs, was first charged with killing his daughter and her friend.

The bodies of the two girls were found in Beulah Park Forest Preserve in Zion on May 9, 2005 – Mothers Day.

Hobbs signed a confession after an interrogation that lasted more than 20 hours. But charges against him were dropped in 2010 after DNA evidence linked Torrez, 23, to the murders.

Hobbs was released from custody after being held in the Lake County Jail for five years.

Torrez is now charged with 18 counts of first-degree murder for stabbing the girls to death.

He is in prison in Virginia for rape, robbery and abduction in two separate attacks on a college student and another woman in 2010. He also faces federal first-degree murder charges in Virginia for killing a Navy petty officer at a base in Arlington, Va., in 2009, according to news reports from the Washington Post.

DNA found at the girls’ murder scene matched Torrez, who lived in the same neighborhood in 2005 and was a friend of Krystal Tobias’ older brother, authorities said. He left the area to enter the Marines, which took him to the Virginia area.

Torrez faces another life sentence if he is convicted of the Zion murders.

Also Tuesday in Lake County court, bail was set at $3 million for Hezekiah Whitfield, 42, of Chicago, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Frederick Reckling in 1994.

James Edwards, 63, was arrested in 1996 for the Reckling murder and is serving a life sentence in prison for the crime.

Edwards’ defense attorney, Paul DeLuca, had previously asked a judge to order a test on DNA found at the Reckling crime scene that did not match Edwards or Reckling.

Edwards made a false confession in this case, DeLuca said, and prosecutors unsuccessfully sought the death penalty.

“He could have been dead by now. That’s the scary part of this case,” DeLuca said.

The identity of the DNA taken from blood found at the crime scene is under a court-ordered seal.

In light of Whitfield’s charges, DeLuca said he hoped the case against Edwards would be dismissed. Edwards’ appeal is due in Lake County again on May 25.

Reckling died of multiple blunt force trauma at his appliance store in Waukegan on Dec. 8, 1994. Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller and Waukegan Police Department announced Whitfield’s arrest Tuesday, citing “newly developed leads and forensic findings” that led to him. He is due to be arraigned Friday.