- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

ZION, Ill. (AP) — Two second-grade girls who disappeared while riding bikes together were found dead yesterday, 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 about 6 a.m.

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

Chief Malcolm said no weapons were found, and there was no evidence of sexual assault. A girl’s bicycle was found nearby.

“This is a heinous crime. It was a crime not only against those kids, but against all of us,” the police chief said, adding that police had not identified any suspects and there were “no solid leads that we’re focusing on.”

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 school, then put their arms around their children or clutched their hands as they walked to their cars.

Constance Collins, superintendent of the 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.”

School was in session yesterday, 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.

Mrs. 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.”

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