Former Marine sentenced to death in murder of Navy woman
By KATHERINE SKIBA | Chicago Tribune | Published: May 31, 2014
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Saying Jorge Torrez had committed “unconscionable crimes,” a federal judge Friday sentenced him to death for strangling a female sailor near the Pentagon in 2009.
Torrez, a Marine at the time of the murder, also stands accused of killing two young girls in Zion, Ill., on Mother’s Day 2005, and prosecutors in Illinois plan to try him for those crimes.
The death sentence, handed down by federal Judge Liam O’Grady in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, was expected after a federal jury voted unanimously April 24 that Torrez should be put to death for killing Amanda Jean Snell, 20.
Torrez, wearing handcuffs shackled to his waist, said little during Friday’s brief court proceeding, but his lawyers said they would file an appeal in the case.
When Torrez was asked by the judge if he wished to make remarks before the sentencing, he said: “There’s nothing I want to say, your honor.”
The defendant, in forest green jail-issued clothing, was led into the courtroom at 1:32 p.m. EDT.
Seven minutes later, Judge Liam O’Grady said Torrez’s crimes supported the jury’s death penalty recommendation.
“I sentence you to death at this time,” O’Grady stated.
During the penalty phase of the federal court case, graphic details emerged about the Zion slayings, which shocked the Chicago area and led to the wrongful prosecution of one victim’s father, Jerry Hobbs, who was jailed for years until DNA evidence taken from Torrez cleared him.
After the jury’s decision, Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim had said he would start taking legal steps to return Torrez to Illinois for a trial in the slayings of Krystal Tobias, 9, and Laura Hobbs, 8.
Even before Friday’s sentencing, Torrez was serving five life sentences plus 168 years in prison for a separate series of brutal crimes against three women in Virginia in 2010.
Friday’s sentencing took place in a packed courtroom that included friends of Snell’s.
Defense attorney Robert Lee Jenkins Jr. told reporters afterward that he and other lawyers for Torrez already had filed papers indicating an appeal would be filed.
“He always adamantly denied he was responsible for killing Miss Snell,” Jenkins said, but at the same time the defendant indicated that if a court found him responsible, he preferred a death sentence over life in prison.
Jenkins, who practices in Alexandria, Va., and has handled several death penalty cases, told reporters he could not immediately say what would be the basis of the appeal.
“We’re going to look at and examine everything,” he said.
Prosecutors had no comment to reporters.
Torrez enlisted in the Marines in September 2006, his lawyers said. That was more than a year after the Zion double murders.
He was kicked out after his arrest in 2010 for a series of predatory crimes against women in Arlington, Va.
One young women whom he abducted on a snowy night was tied up, raped, sodomized, choked with her own winter scarf and left for dead in a wooded area several miles away.
She crawled to a roadway, was rescued by a motorist, survived the terrifying ordeal and testified against Torrez.