WAUKEGAN, Ill. – The man charged with stabbing his young daughter and her best friend to death was denied bond Wednesday during a court hearing. Authorities said Jerry Hobbs (search), who had recently gotten out of prison, confessed to the gruesome crimes in videotaped interviews and written statements.
Hobbs told investigators he was angry at his 8-year-old daughter Laura Hobbs (search) for taking money from her mother when he tracked down her and her friend Krystal Tobias (search), 9, in a wooded park, prosecutors said Wednesday.
He punched Laura and then killed both girls, stabbing his daughter over and over again in the neck and eyes, prosecutors said during Wednesday's hearing, the accused killer's first court appearance.
Hobbs, shackled and in a dark blue jail uniform, stared at the courtroom floor as Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic described the case against him.
"You can see through the injuries to these two individuals the rage that was exhibited," Pavletic said. "This was a slaughter of two little girls."
The killer was so enraged, he said, that the knife wounds went through Laura Hobbs' neck into her spine.
After hearing the prosecutor's descriptions, the judge ordered Hobbs held without bond.
Public Defender David Brodsky said he had not seen details of the case and could not comment yet, but he said he would assign two capital defenders to represent Hobbs.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 9, but Brodsky said he expects Hobbs will be indicted by a grand jury before then. He also said his office would investigate whether Hobbs' statements should be admissible in court.
Hobbs, who had been released from a Texas prison last month, said he thought Laura had stolen money from her mother, prosecutors said. She was supposed to be grounded on Mother's Day, but her mother let her go out and play, so Hobbs went out to find her and bring her home, Pavletic said.
"Mr. Hobbs believed that her mother was too lax in her supervision of Laura," the prosecutor said.
But when Hobbs found the girls, Laura refused to go home, and he beat and stabbed the girls with a small kitchen knife, prosecutors said.
He claimed the older girl pulled a knife on him, but prosecutors said they doubt that.
"It's inconceivable that Krystal had this knife," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said late Wednesday during an interview on "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren."
Waller also said it is possible that, in addition to the alleged confession, physical evidence will link Hobbs to the slayings.
"We believe we will have some physical evidence that will corroborate our case, but we don't know that for sure," Waller told FOX News.
Outside the home where Hobbs and his girlfriend Sheila Hollabaugh had lived with their children, a man who identified himself as a family spokesman Wednesday read a brief statement and said they would have no other comment.
"The entire family wants to express their deepest sympathy for the Tobias family," Jeremy Harter said. "They wanted to thank the Zion community for all their support throughout this trying time."
Down the street, outside Krystal's home, there was makeshift memorials of flowers and teddy bears on a path leading up to house.
Hobbs, 34, had led police to the bodies of Laura and Krystal early Monday morning, claiming he had come across them just off the Beulah Park bike path while searching with relatives for his daughter, who had been missing since Mother's Day.
In videotaped interviews and written statements over the following two days, however, prosecutors say Hobbs told them he killed both girls after Laura refused to leave the park and then dragged their bodies into the woods. Police arrested Hobbs Tuesday and charged him with the murders of Laura and Krystal.
Hobbs told investigators he had gone out looking for the girls between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday.
He told his daughter to go home, then punched her when she disobeyed, Pavletic said. Krystal then pulled out a potato knife to try to defend her friend, and he attacked her as well, according to the interviews. Hobbs wrested the knife from her, hit her, and then stabbed both girls repeatedly, Pavletic said Hobbs told investigators.
He dragged them into the woods and left them face-up, side-by-side, Pavletic said. The girls had apparently taken their shoes off, and Hobbs had found them and left them in an orderly manner next to the bodies, he said.
"It was a brutal beating, repeated punching of the two little girls and then repeated stabs. It's pretty horrible," Waller said.
Laura was stabbed 20 times in the neck and abdomen and once in each eye, prosecutors said. Krystal was stabbed 11 times in the neck and torso.
Lake County Public Defender David Brozsky said he hadn't seen details of the case and couldn't comment yet, but he said he would assign two capital defenders.
Waller said the second-grade girls were sharing the same bike the afternoon of Mother's Day when they came across Laura's dad in a thickly wooded nature area, not too far from the Hobbs home.
Authorities said Hobbs piqued their interest early on because his reaction to the crime and answers to their questions were atypical for a father dealing with such a tragedy.
Waller told NBC's "Today" earlier Wednesday that the father had showed a lack of emotion and that "things didn't add up" in his interviews with police.
The prosecutor said Hobbs went looking for his daughter and that Krystal "just happened to be there," before the father killed both girls.
"Somehow, without explanation this horrific attack occurred,” Waller told FOX News.
Saying they have a compelling case against Hobbs, officials believe he's eligible for the death penalty if convicted, but a decision on seeking such a penalty hadn't been made.
Lake County (search) Coroner Richard Keller said the girls did not appear to have been sexually assaulted. They were apparently killed near the area where they were found, he said.
Hobbs has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1990 in Texas, including prior arrests for assault and resisting arrest, according to records kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
For the two years up until April 12, he was in a Texas prison serving time for assault involving an argument with Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, during which he grabbed a chain saw and chased neighbors through the trailer park where they lived, according to Wichita County, Texas, Assistant District Attorney Rick Mahler.
No one was hurt in the 2001 incident and someone subdued Hobbs by hitting him in the back with a shovel, Mahler said. Hobbs was sentenced to 10 years probation but failed to appear for required meetings, so his probation was revoked in 2003 and he was imprisoned until last month.
Arthur Hollabaugh, Laura Hobbs' grandfather who was with Hobbs when the girls' bodies were found, said Hobbs had been living with the Hollabaughs after his release.
"Jerry just got out of prison for aggravated assault and I think they're holding that against him," Hollabaugh said before police announced the charges. "I don't think he did it."
Hollabaugh described the search for his missing granddaughter and said the two men were in the woods shortly before dawn Monday when they spotted Laura's bike part way down a ravine in the brush.
Minutes later, he said, Hobbs was screaming that he had found the bodies.
"I went and I seen them from a distance," said Hollabaugh. "It was clear they were laying there."
"No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs printed in black and orange had been posted on a fence in front of the family's house Tuesday afternoon.
The quiet community of Zion, along Lake Michigan, was founded in 1901 by a religious faith healer as a utopian community. It has about 22,000 residents but feels almost rural despite being on the edge of both the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas.
Outside the Tobias home Tuesday, a church minister talked with family members about the charges. Krystal's 15-year-old brother, Alberto Segura, said he had never met Hobbs but knew the ex-convict was searching with his own family the night his sister was killed.
Police didn't tell the family much about the investigation, and they didn't find out that Hobbs had been charged or was a suspect until they saw it on television, he said.
"If it was him, then good thing they brought him down," said Segura. "We never thought a father would do that to a daughter. They were just babies. They didn't do anything wrong."
At a prayer vigil later Tuesday evening, Krystal's family and about 200 community members gathered outside her home and somberly walked the block and a half to Laura's house. The slain girls' families hugged each other and began crying.
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Jeff Goldblatt and Jared Goldman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.