(CBS) — The anticipated trial of Jorge Torrez for the alleged 2005 murder of two young girls in Zion will likely not occur until next February, officials said Tuesday.
Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes noted that defense attorney Jed Stone had been granted court-approved funding for investigations related to the case, and he expected that hearings on defense motions would take up the remainder of this year.
“My guess is we’ll probably spend the fall litigating and if it’s going to trial, we’ll probably do that after New Year’s,” Shanes said.
Stone said after the hearing that, practically speaking, there is no rush.
“He already has five life sentences and a federal death penalty hanging over his head,” Stone said.
Torrez, a former Zion resident, is charged with the brutal 2005 Mother’s Day slaying of 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias in the Beulah Park Forest Preserve in Zion. The girls were stabbed numerous times.
Laura Hobbs’ father, Jerry Hobbs, had previously confessed and been convicted of the murder, but was exonerated by DNA that pointed to Torrez.
Torrez has already been convicted of the strangulation murder of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Amanda Snell, 20, who lived in the same barracks as Torrez at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va.
A former Marine, Torrez has also been convicted of abducting three young women in Arlington, Va., in February 2010, one of whom he raped, sodomized, strangled and left for dead.
Torrez was sentenced to five life sentences at the state level in Virginia and is sentenced to death at the federal level for Snell’s murder, Stone said.
Torrez was present at his hearing Tuesday and is expected to be held in Lake County until after local proceedings are concluded.
Despite the other convictions and sentences, when asked whether Torrez maintained his innocence in the Zion murders, Stone said Tuesday that “Jorge is eager to have me prepare a vigorous defense for his trial.”
Last year, Stone, who is voluntarily handling the case without pay, said he planned to request funding for DNA experts. Shanes has approved some funding for that purpose and to aid investigative efforts by Stone.
Stone declined to outline exactly what he is investigating, but said after the hearing that “there is at least one other person who has confessed to this.”
Torrez has not confessed, and Stone confirmed he was referring to Hobbs, who, after receiving a multi-million dollar settlement for the five years he spent in Lake County Jail, is now in prison on an unrelated out-of-state drug conviction.
Prosecutors, including State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim (NEAR’-hime), have said the decision to try Torrez for the Lake County murders was necessary because there is always a chance previous convictions could be overturned and because it will help provide closure for the families of the girls.
According to investigators, DNA found at the girls’ murder scene matches Torrez, a friend of Krystal Tobias’ brother who lived in the same Zion neighborhood in 2005. He later left the area to enter the Marines, which took him to Virginia.