I can’t believe it, but is has been 20 years since my first true-crime book, Family Affairs, was published by Pocket Book/Simon & Schuster. The book details the killing and subsequent trials of one of the most high-profile criminal cases in the history of Johnson County, Ks.
The book, released nationally in May 1992, explores the murder of 13-year-old Christian Hobson. The teenager, from Overland Park, Ks., was killed by his 17-year-old stepbrother, James Crumm, and Crumm’s friend, Paul Sorrentino, also 17.
The Crumm and Sorrentino, who attended Shawnee Mission South High School at the time of the murder, drove Christian to an isolated location near Hillsdale Lake in Miami County where he was forced to dig his own grave in the middle of the night before being shot and killed.
The teenagers were following the instructions of Crumm’s mother, Sueanne Hobson, who masterminded the killing because she simply didn’t like Chris.
The murdered boy’s father, Ed Hobson, initially divorced Sueanne shortly after the killing, but remarried her before her trial. He subsequently divorced her again while she was in prison, but again remarried her a few years later while still in prison. He remains married to her today.
During the case, Hobson adamantly defended his wife’s innocence and often wore a T-shirt to the Johnson County Courthouse that said: They promised me justice. I promise them revenge.
He emotionally testified on her behalf at her trial.
Sueanne, who is now 68 years old, was released from prison in February 2011 after serving 31 years for the killing. She is living in her childhood home in Prairie Village with Ed.
At the time of her release, several residents in the quiet residential nieghborhood voiced their disapproval. Not only were some residents upset that Sueanne was being released from prison, they were also upset that she and Ed were moving back into the family home.
Sueanne had been denied for parole eight times before finally being released. Ed repeatedly begged for her release during several of those parole hearings.
Sueanne was not at the scene of the crime and repeatedly denied her involvement in the killing. However, a Johnson County jury convicted her of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, despite Ed Hobson’s testimony that she was innocent of any involvement in the killing of his son.
Ironically, the two boys who actually committed the killing were released from prison several years ago. Crumm was released in January 1999. Sorrentino was released in April 2000. The two men now live out of state.
Crumm was convicted of first-degree murder. Sorrentino entered into a plea agreement of aiding and abetting first-degree murder in exchange for his testimony at Sueanne’s trial. Jimmy also agreed to testify against his mother at her trial.
Both teenagers faced prison terms of 15-years-to-life in prison. However, under Kansas sentencing guidelines at the time of the killing, their life sentences also included the possibility that they could be paroled after serving only seven and one-half years.
Both boys were passed over several times before being granted parole, but served substantially less time than Sueanne. Kansas parole board officials said Crumm and Sorrentino, despite being the actual killers, were released earlier than Sueanne because they both admitted their guilt in the killing of Chris.
Sueanne repeatedly refused to admit her involvement in the killings, which led the parole board to deny her probation eight times.
In the 1990s Kansas changed its sentencing guidelines, abolishing the right for parole in life sentences after serving only seven and one-half years. The Kansas Legislature enacted more stringent parole guidelines that ensure substantially longer prison sentences for those convicted of murder.
Since her release, Sueanne and Ed have refused to publicly discuss the case or their lives together. Her daughter, Suzanne, who was 13 years old at the time of the killing and testified at her mother’s trial, has also refused comment.
For information on how to purchase a copy of my book, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org/. The cost is $15 and it includes shipping and handling.