The horrific rampage of former Marine Jorge Torrez began in a park in his hometown of Zion, Ill., when he was just 16 years old. In May 2005, he fatally stabbed Laura Hobbs, 8, and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9, in a case that attracted national attention, particularly after Laura’s father was wrongfully charged with the girls' murders.
Jorge Torrez graduated from high school a year later, never a suspect in the killings, and joined the Marines. By 2010 he was stationed at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., while working at the Pentagon. That’s when he attacked two women coming home from a Saturday night out, bound them with electrical cords inside their apartment and then took one of the women in his SUV, raped her, choked her and left her for dead. Police soon found Torrez, took his DNA and entered it into a national databank. And then the full scope of his crimes became apparent.
First, in July 2010, the DNA linked him to the killing of Laura and Krystal five years earlier.
Then the DNA linked him to the 2009 strangulation of Amanda Jean Snell, a 20-year-old Navy petty officer also stationed at Fort Myer. While in the Arlington County jail for his initial sex-crimes arrest, Torrez told a fellow inmate that he’d committed all three murders. The inmate was wearing a recorder. Federal prosecutors took the case and won a rare death sentence from a jury in Alexandria, Va., in 2014.
Illinois prosecutors soon extradited him back to Lake County. And on Tuesday, he admitted killing Laura and Krystal on Mother’s Day 2005, as part of a plea deal in which he was sentenced to 100 years in prison, on top of his death sentence for killing Snell and five life sentences for the attacks on the women in Arlington.
“Within each of us, there is a divine spark of goodness. But not for you,” Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes told Torrez, according to the Chicago Daily Herald. “You are a serial killer.”
Torrez did not speak during the plea and sentencing other than to answer the judge’s questions. As part of the plea deal, Torrez will be transferred from the Red Onion State Prison in southwest Virginia to a federal prison where he will await execution. His federal conviction and death sentence were upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court is now considering Torrez’s case.
“I just want to say we’re glad it’s over,” said Marina Tobias, Krystal’s mother, according to the Lake County News-Sun. “It has been a very long time, and this ensures he’ll never do anything like that to anyone else.”
The attack on the two women in Arlington shocked prosecutors with its brutality. After forcing the women into their apartment in the Ballston area, Torrez drove one of the women to a secluded area, raped her, then tightened a scarf around her neck.
“I screamed, ‘What are you doing?’ ” the victim testified in 2011. “He responded, ‘What do you think I’m doing?’ ” Torrez kept tugging on the scarf, and the woman later awoke and found herself face down in the snow near a highway in Prince William County, Va.
Virginia was the first state in the nation to authorize the taking of DNA from prisoners even before they were convicted of a crime. Doing so with Torrez quickly connected him to three homicides.
While Torrez was awaiting trial in Arlington in connection with abduction and rape, he met fellow inmate Osama El-Atari, a flashy former restaurateur in jail for fraud. El-Atari knew of the pending murder cases against Torrez and, while wearing a wire, asked Torrez if he felt any remorse.
“Does a lion feel remorse when it kills a hyena?” Torrez can be heard telling El-Atari during the taped conversation.
"You don't feel bad?” El-Atari asked during another conversation.
"Nope,” Torrez responded.
“At all?” El-Atari asked again.
“Nope,” Torrez repeated.
After a federal jury convicted Torrez of killing Snell inside Henderson Hall at Fort Myer, prosecutors introduced evidence of the Zion killings of Krystal and Laura to convince the jurors that Torrez deserved to die. Torrez instructed his attorneys not to contest the penalty phase of the case, and none of the witnesses were cross-examined by the defense. The jury took four hours to agree on a death sentence.
Torrez’s defense team did fight the murder charges in Illinois for several years before finally reaching a plea agreement. Judge Shanes told him, “Your murder of these two girls was reprehensible. What you did is repugnant to every moral of civilized society.”