ZION, Ill. – Krystal Tobias (search) and Laura Hobbs became fast friends after Laura moved to town last summer, exploring nearby Beulah Park together and riding through the neighborhood on Laura's bike — Krystal standing on pegs attached to the back wheel.
Authorities believe their friendship was so tight it's possible 9-year-old Krystal might have tried to help her 8-year-old best friend during an attack by the girl's enraged father.
Jerry Hobbs (search) was ordered held without bond Wednesday on charges of beating and stabbing both girls to death in the wooded park where authorities said he apparently had tracked Laura down to order her home.
When Laura refused to leave, Hobbs punched her, Lake County prosecutor Jeff Pavletic told the judge at the hearing.
Hobbs claimed to investigators that Krystal pulled out a potato knife and tried to defend her friend, but that Hobbs wrested the knife from her, hit her and then stabbed the girls more than 30 times, killing them, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors doubt Krystal pulled a knife on Hobbs, but Pavletic said it was certainly possible she tried to help her friend.
Hobbs, 34, had moved in with Laura and her mother and grandparents less than a month earlier after he was released from a Texas prison where he had been serving time for assault.
Krystal's brother said his family didn't know Hobbs or even suspect he could have killed the girls until authorities announced charges against him Tuesday afternoon.
"She was so smart, there was so much she could have done," said her brother Alberto Segura, 15. "She could have changed the world, but we will never know."
Krystal — the youngest of four children and the only girl — was the first in the house to wake each morning, and couldn't wait to get to school, Segura said. She loved to dance and was looking forward to summer and a new water park at Six Flags Great America.
On the family's refrigerator is a Mother's Day card she made with little red hearts and "coupons" for her mother: One promised to water the plants for two days, another promised she'd do her homework without complaint.
"Their house was open to all the neighborhood kids," said Ray Torres, whose son is a friend of Krystal's brothers. "This was a good family, with the biggest of hearts."