ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Jorge Torrez, who is awaiting sentencing in a sailor’s murder and is charged in the slaying of two Zion girls on Mother’s Day 2005, told a fellow inmate how he stabbed both girls over and over, knifing their throats so they could not scream, according to testimony and jailhouse recordings played in court today.
The fellow inmate, Osama El-Atari, was working with authorities and wore a recording device during days of conversations with Torrez in the Arlington County, Va., detention center in August 2010. In one recording, Torrez and El-Atari discussed the Zion slayings.
“You didn’t feel bad?” El-Atari asked.
“No,” Torrez answered.
Pathologist Dr. Nancy Jones took the stand today and testified that although she’s performed more than 10,000 autopsies, she had a “very vivid recollection” of examining the girls.
“It’s not often that I perform autopsies on two children who were murdered on Mother’s Day,” she told the court.
Jurors have already convicted Torrez, a 25-year-old former Marine, of killing sailor Amanda Snell in a barracks building near the Pentagon in 2009 and are considering whether he should be given the death penalty. He is also charged in the Zion slayings, and Lake County, Ill., authorities say they intend to try him in that case regardless of the outcome of his Virginia sentencing.
Torrez initially avoided suspicion after the 2005 killings of Laura Hobbs, 8, and her best friend, Krystal Tobias, 9. Instead, Hobbs’ father, Jerry Hobbs, confessed to the crime following questioning that stretched across 24 hours, an admission he later said police coerced.
Torrez was linked to the crime only after Virginia authorities took a DNA sample following his arrest in separate predatory crimes against women — and the genetic fingerprint linked him to the killings in his hometown, Zion.
It had been known since 2007 that the DNA from the scene didn’t match Hobbs but Lake County authorities refused to free him until 2010 when the forensic evidence pointed to Torrez. Between 2007 and 2010, authorities say Torrez killed Snell and committed a series of vicious assaults on women in Virginia, including a nearly fatal sexual attack.
Jurors in Virginia today heard from the informant, El-Atari, a Virginia businessman sentenced in August 2010 to 12 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering and admitted to scamming banks out of tens of millions of dollars using phony collateral for loans.
El-Atari testified that after Torrez learned that DNA linked him to the Zion slayings, he had a plan to evade blame.
“He was going to say that Jerry Hobbs did the murders, and he was present,” El-Atari testified.
According to testimony by El-Atari and the recordings, Torrez used a 3-inch pocket knife, stabbing the girls all over their bodies, including their eyes and throats. He identified the girls by name in his conversations with El-Atari, according to testimony.
Torrez, on the tape recording, said he held down one of the girls while he stabbed the other, killing Tobias first.
“They bled a lot, but this is outside in the woods,” Torrez told the informant.
When El-Atari was asked by a prosecutor if Torrez ever talked about pretending he was mentally ill to beat criminal charges against him, the informant said: “He was going to plead like he was crazy.”
The pathologist, Jones, said Laura Hobbs had 20 stab wounds and Tobias had 11 stab wounds. The girls also suffered from other injuries, including blunt force trauma, but both bled to death from their stab wounds, she said.
Torrez is now serving five life sentences plus 168 years for the string of attacks on women in Virginia, including abducting two at gunpoint, repeatedly raping one of them and leaving her for dead. She survived the attack and testified Monday.
Jerry Hobbs settled a lawsuit against various Lake County authorities involved in his case for about $8 million. His was one of four cases in which Lake County prosecutors disregarded forensic evidence indicating the wrong man had been jailed, and those men spent a total of 60 years behind bars before they were cleared. Three of those man had confessed to the crimes during grueling interrogations.
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