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Police: 'No solid leads' or suspects in probe

Students return to school after child stabbings

Krystal Tobias, left, and Laura Hobbs were reported missing Sunday evening.
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Watch the news conference with the Zion police chief and county coroner.

ZION, Illinois (CNN) -- Concerned parents accompanied their children to Beulah Park Elementary School on Tuesday morning, a day after two second-grade girls were found stabbed to death in a nearby park.

The bodies of best friends Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9, were found early Monday in the park about four blocks away from the school, said Police Chief Doug Malcolm of Zion, a small town about 45 miles north of Chicago.

Malcolm said police had "no solid leads" or suspects after questioning several people, including the girls' family members.

Zion School Superintendent Connie Collins said the community was "in terrible shock." (Full story)

"It's very difficult to begin to understand something like this," Collins said. "It's something that was not expected. In a community like this, we have never had this type of experience, so it's been very difficult for everyone."

'Mostly rage'

Laura's grandmother, Emily Hollabaugh, said her granddaughter was "a typical 8-year-old girl" who "always had a smile for everybody," and Krystal was "just as sweet as Laura was."

"I have a lot of questions, but it's just mostly rage at whoever could do this to two little girls," she said.

Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said the girls appeared to have been stabbed to death. Investigators found no initial signs they had been bound or sexually assaulted, he said.

Parents, police and city and school officials were expected to attend a community meeting Tuesday night to talk about the killings, to offer safety tips and to provide an update on the investigation, Collins said.

She said the girls' class had recently touched on the issue of loss.

"Fortunately, in talking with the classroom teacher, she shared with me that the children recently read a couple of books on loss -- 'Charlotte's Web' and 'The Taste of Blackberries,' " Collins said. "The children had an opportunity to discuss feelings and talk about what it meant to lose someone and to share with each other."

The girls were last seen riding bicycles on Sunday afternoon, Malcolm said. One of the bikes was recovered near the spot where their bodies were found, shortly after 6 a.m. Monday by a man taking a walk in Beulah Park, a spot that neighborhood parents warn children to avoid.

"It's out of sight of many adults who might possibly be around the kids or monitoring them," Collins said. "We try to keep them in the open."

Malcolm promised that "no stone will be unturned" in the investigation.

"Right now there's no solid leads that we're focusing in on," Malcolm said. "It's a heinous crime. It's a crime against not only those kids, but against all of us."

Hollabaugh said the girls were seen playing in the park about 5:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

"I know she didn't come home for dinner and we got worried, and her brothers and sisters went out looking for her," Hollabaugh told Chicago television station WLS. "They didn't find her, and then, about 9 o'clock, they called the police."

Keller estimated the time of death at 1 to 2 a.m. Monday, but said that estimate could be affected by rain and cool temperatures in the area. Each girl had been stabbed at least twice, he said. Malcolm said the bodies were found about 100 yards off a bicycle path in a wooded area on the north end of the park.

Zion isn't used to such criminal events, said Mayor Lane Harrison. "This is an unusual occurrence for our community," she said. "We are going to do everything we can to bring this to a quick resolution."

Zion, population 23,000, had three reported homicides in 2002 and none in 2003, according to the police department's annual reports.

CNN's Chris Lawrence and Keith Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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