May 10, 2005 in Nation/World

Girls found dead in park

Mike Colias Associated Press
 
AP photo

Tobias
(Full-size photo)

ZION, Ill. – Two second-grade girls who disappeared while riding bikes together were found dead Monday, both stabbed multiple times and left to die off a bicycle path in a park, authorities said.

A resident walking through a wooded nature area in the park discovered the bodies of best friends Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9, at dawn.

“This is a heinous crime. It was a crime not only against those kids but also against all of us,” Police Chief Doug Malcolm said.

The parents of one of the girls reported her missing about 8:50 p.m. Sunday, about two hours after she had been expected home, Malcolm said. The parents of the other girl called shortly afterward, and authorities with rescue dogs began searching.

Malcolm said no weapons and no evidence of sexual assault were found. He said police have not identified any suspects and have “no solid leads that we’re focusing on.” A girl’s bicycle was found nearby.

The killings stunned this town about 45 miles north of Chicago, prompting police and school officials to escort children directly onto buses at the end of the school day. Dozens of anxious parents waited until their children emerged from the front doors of the schools, then put their arms around them or clutched their hands as they walked to their cars.

Constance Collins, superintendent of Zion Elementary School District 6, said the girls were in the same second-grade class at Beulah Park Elementary School.

“They were best friends,” said Laura Unrein, who lives near the park. “When one left, the other left. They were always together.”

“They were very sweet girls,” said Julie Dobnikar, a second-grade teacher at the school. Dobnikar added that the girls’ teacher is “very distraught right now.”

School was in session Monday, and social workers and a crisis intervention team were called in to help the students.

Jeanette Ortiz said she is worried because her 11-year-old son plays and rides his bike in the same park. She came to the school to pick him up.

“I’m going to have to tell him that he needs to be careful no matter where he goes,” she said.

Unrein said the area where the girls’ bodies were found is well-known in the community as a place to avoid.

“There have been incidents of kids beating up people and taking their wallets, and park rangers have had to shoo people out of there for hunting illegally,” she said. “My husband and I don’t go down there anymore because you hear the stories.”

The park where the girls were found has a paved bike path, a ravine and trails made by mountain bikers. Police cordoned off the area with tape on Monday.

Zion, along Lake Michigan, was founded in 1901 by a religious faith healer as a utopian community. It has about 22,000 residents but retains a quiet, at times rural feel despite being on the edge of both the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas.

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