Updated: 12/02/10 5:07 pm.
CHICAGO (CBS) – He says he can never be repaid for the years he lost, but Jerry Hobbs is still looking for answers. He was wrongly accused of murdering his own daughter and her friend.
He spent five long years in prison, even though DNA evidence could have cleared him. Hobbs is now going after the investigators who put him away.
Hobbs says Lake County law enforcement officers went out of their way to frame him. In fact, he says they used violence to force him to confess.
“I was a broke man, and I just gave them what they wanted,” said Jerry Hobbs.
Hobbs says that forced confession was the beginning of his five-year nightmare, which began with the murders of his 8-year-old daughter Laura and her 9-year-old friend Krystal Tobias.
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Right after Hobbs found their bodies in a field near his former home in Zion, Hobbs says investigators zoomed in on him and never looked at anyone else.
After a nearly 24-hour interrogation, he falsely confessed to murdering the two girls.
“I asked for a lawyer twice. I tried to walk out, they wouldn’t let me walk out,” said Hobbs.
“The defendants who we’ve sued in this lawsuit chose to brutalize and coerce physically and psychologically torture Jerry Hobbs into making a confession to that heinous crime,” said Attorney Locke Bowman of Northwestern Center for Justice. “When they did that, they, in the public eye, converted this good and decent man from the loving father that he is and was, into a public monster.”
Hobbs immediately tried to retract his confession, but prosecutors continued to push forward in, what they said, was a potential death penalty case.
Hobbs and his attorneys say what investigators didn’t focus on was DNA evidence found on and near the girls’ bodies that would have cleared him.
“The prosecutor came up in the courtroom, we all came up, and there was semen all over the bodies: in them, on them, around them,” said Hobbs. “And it didn’t match me. And they still were trying to charge me.”
Hobbs found the girls’ bodies in May of 2005. DNA evidence was later tested and, in 2006, attorneys say prosecutors knew it didn’t match Hobbs. Even so, he sat in jail for four more years until his release in August.
“The prosecutors would not listen to reason,” Bowman said.
Further testing later matched that DNA to Jorge Torres, 21, a former U.S. Marine and former Zion resident. Torres is now serving time in a Virginia prison after being convicted of kidnapping and raping a college student.
Hobbs’ lawyers say the Virginia crime would never have happened if Lake County investigators hadn’t botched their investigation by focusing on Hobbs.
“There in fact was evidence out there at the time which showed that the two little girls, before they had been murdered, were with Jorge Torres,” said John Stainthorp of People’s Law Office.
When asked if he still thinks about his daughter Laura, Jerry Hobbs said, “It’s not as hard as it was then, but I think about her every day, what kind of lady she would have been now.”
Despite the DNA match, Jorge Torres has not been charged with the girls’ murders.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller did not return any calls for comment on this case and the civil rights lawsuit.
He is not named in that, but many members of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force are defendants. Its chief says it would be inappropriate to comment on pending litigation.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov and Mike Puccinelli contributed to this report.