March 1, 2010
Detective Bob Icolari was nearing the end of a long run in law enforcement. A kid from Newark, New Jersey, Icolari had volunteered for the Marines during the Vietnam War. He joined the military police early on, moving up to the criminal-investigations division and then the Naval Investigative Service—a Marine investigating Marines for 21 years.
“You come across stellar Marines,” he says. “But you come across countless cases where Marines are involved in homicides, stonings, stabbings. People have a preconceived notion of what a Marine is—how successful they are in war, in leadership, in life. Where did the oddball come from? The Marines draw from society. You can’t train out the character flaws.”
Icolari retired as a Marine gunnery sergeant and joined the Arlington police department in 1992. He’s been a detective for most of the years since.
Because Icolari had served in the Marines, Detective Stone suggested he might have a more fruitful interview with Torrez.
Icolari interviewed Torrez two days after the arrest. Icolari showed Torrez his military ID. He tried to establish a connection with Torrez. But when he started asking questions about sexual assaults, Torrez clammed up and looked away.
“We can put the pieces of the case together forensically, the evidence, the statements of the two ladies,” Icolari told him. “The piece of the puzzle that’s missing is the piece from you.”
He reminded Torrez that he had come from a good family. He asked him over and over for his side of the story.
“I’m looking for your personal courage,” Icolari implored.
“I still don’t want to talk about the case,” Torrez said.
Icolari tried for an hour.
“You’re really not a Marine,” he said. “You have dishonored us. Do you acknowledge that?”
“Gunnery sergeant,” Torrez said, “I understand.”
• • •
Detective Stone oversaw the gathering of evidence in preparation for the court case. It’s a painstaking process of securing evidence, sending it to labs, cataloging it for prosecutors and legal testimony.
Forensic technicians had gathered blood and semen samples from Julie Thomas, Jorge Torrez, and the Durango, then sent the samples to a Virginia Department of Forensic Science lab in Manassas. It usually takes six months to get results. Stone asked for expedited processing.
Two months later, in early May, the lab returned the DNA results: Torrez’s semen was detected on Thomas; it was her blood in the Durango and on Torrez’s clothes.
On May 17, 2010, Arlington County indicted Torrez for rape; abduction; abduction with the intent to defile; robbery; the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony; and other charges.
Torrez pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial.
Later that summer, in mid-June, two detectives from Zion, Illinois, showed up at the Arlington police department and asked to meet with detectives.
They brought a case file and photographs from a grisly double murder five years earlier. On Mother’s Day 2005, Krystal Tobias, age nine, and Laura Hobbs, eight, went for a bike ride in their neighborhood. When they failed to return, search parties fanned out. Jerry Hobbs, Laura’s father, found their bodies that night in Beulah Park. Tobias had been stabbed 11 times. Hobbs had been sexually assaulted and stabbed some 20 times. Their shoes were arranged neatly beside them.
Jerry Hobbs had a long record and became a suspect. Police interrogated him for nearly 24 hours; toward the end, they got a confession out of him. Prosecutors jailed him and sought the death penalty. When the Zion cops showed up in Arlington, Hobbs was still in jail, though he said that police had coerced his confession.
Along with the photos of the slain children, they brought a DNA report.
Torrez’s DNA had gone out on CODIS, a national database, in June when it was linked to his alleged sexual assault of Julie Thomas. The DNA that was found in one of the murdered girls was still in the database. It matched Torrez’s.
Jorge Torrez was 16 at the time of the Zion murders, living with his family two blocks from Beulah Park, where the bodies were found. A witness had reported seeing Torrez riding his bike with the girls.
Zion police had interviewed Torrez as a potential witness.
Five years later, the Zion cops who came to Arlington wanted to confirm the DNA hit and gather information about Torrez. Based on the DNA linking Torrez to the murders, Illinois authorities released Jerry Hobbs on August 4, 2010.
As Arlington cops developed the Torrez case, they heard little from NCIS about Amanda Snell. Arlington detectives had worked very closely with NCIS on past cases, and they had a close relationship. In fact, Arlington police had been called in to assist as soon as Snell was discovered dead in her room.
The Arlington cops considered the basic facts of a young woman found dead with no clear explanation or medical cause. Their consensus: It was a homicide.
After the Zion detectives came to Arlington, NCIS agents flew to Illinois to interview members of Torrez’s family.
Around that time, in the summer of 2010, NCIS agents requested another meeting with Arlington detectives about Snell.
After Snell’s death, NCIS investigators had ordered forensic tests on the bedding from her barracks. But because it wasn’t clear that Snell’s death was a homicide, the bedding wasn’t given priority in the backlog of evidence awaiting testing. The sheets were still in storage. Now there was a reason to expedite the testing. Forensic experts combed the fibers, found DNA, and compared it to Torrez’s.
• • •
Awaiting trial in the Arlington County Detention Center, Jorge Torrez stewed.
How could he escape the charges? His conclusion: Keep his accusers from testifying. He plotted with other inmates. He drew a map to the home of one of the victims. He was caught with a “shank,” a homemade knife. He made threats against a guard.
Unfortunately for Torrez, one of the inmates was an informant. He wore a wire, recorded the plot, and turned the information over to Arlington authorities.
Prosecutor Theo Stamos contacted the four women who had been accosted by Torrez. “We don’t think the threats are credible,” she said, “but you need to take precautions.”
Arlington police put them on special watch.