ZION, Ill. – Eight-year-old Laura Hobbs (search) lay in a white coffin, wearing a red dress and flanked by a Barbie doll and a white teddy bear.
Hundreds of mourners filed past her open casket, then shuffled past a picture of the beaming second-grader before her funeral Sunday, which took place just a few miles from where she and her best friend were found stabbed to death last week.
Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias (search) were found on May 9 in a heavily wooded area of a park near their homes in Zion, a town of 22,000 about 45 miles north of Chicago. The next day, authorities charged Hobbs' father, 34-year-old Jerry Hobbs, with first-degree murder, saying he confessed to beating and stabbing the children on Mother's Day.
Prosecutors said Hobbs told them he became angry because his daughter refused to obey his order to leave the park and return home. He attacked Tobias when she came to the defense of her friend, they said.
Standing before the coffin and breaking into tears, Laura Hobbs' mother, Sheila Hollabaugh (search), told the congregation of about 200 family, friends and neighbors that she knew her daughter was in heaven.
"I leave my little girl in God's hands now," she said. "She feels no more pain and no more sorrow, and will never again have a reason not to smile."
Dozens of Hobbs' classmates from Beulah Park Elementary School attended the service at the Congdon Funeral Home in Zion. Many of the children wiped away tears as they saw her body.
"She was always smiling and happy," said a neighborhood friend, 12-year-old Qadira Williams.
Hobbs' great-uncle, Raymond Morley, said the family was still struggling with the girls' brutal murders, especially Laura's mother.
"She's numb," Morley said. "She's in guilt and in mourning. We're trying to comfort her the best we can."
Morley said he did not know if Hollabaugh believed Jerry Hobbs committed the murders. But he said if Hobbs was convicted, he deserved the death penalty.
"If they got their man, I don't think he deserves anything less than execution for something this horrible," Morley said. "He's brought this whole community to its knees."
Dr. Ronald Petrick told mourners during Sunday's service that the girls' deaths would help draw other people closer to God.
"These little girls did not die in vain," Petrick said.
Glenn Sandberg of Arlington Heights did not know Laura Hobbs or her family, but felt compelled to pay his respects.
"I just felt for the family ... it's just terrible for something like this to happen for someone who just began life," Sandberg said.
A Lake County judge on Wednesday denied bond for Hobbs, who has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1990 in Texas, including prior arrests for assault and resisting arrest.
For the two years up until April 12, he was serving time for assault involving an argument with Hollabaugh, during which he grabbed a chain saw and chased her and neighbors through the trailer park where they lived, according to Texas authorities. The couple had three children together but never married.
A preliminary hearing for Hobbs is scheduled for June 9, but prosecutors have said they expect he will be indicted by a grand jury before then.