When Timothy Joe Mobly was captured in Mexico and returned to Washoe County earlier this month, it was joyous news. It meant a very bad person was behind bars, where he belongs. And it meant that everyone involved with an ugly case could finally move on.
Mobly had been on the run from the law since April 30, 1999. That was the day he was supposed to be sentenced for kidnapping and raping two women—ages 17 and 24 at the time of the attacks—who he met on the Internet in two separate incidents in late 1998.
I became very familiar with this case when I was the crime reporter with the Sparks Tribune. Shortly after the attack on the 17-year-old, I did a brief story based on a press release sent out by the Sparks Police Department. Like the SPD press release, my story did not even mention the fact Mobly and his partner in crime, Aaron Matthew Cross, had victimized a woman before the 17-year-old.
Shortly after that story ran, I received a phone call from a crying woman. Her name was Jennifer W., then a 24-year-old student at the University of Nevada, Reno. What she told me was hard to imagine—she said that she had reported her attack to the police more than a month before the attack of the 17-year-old. She claimed they didn’t believe her and even called her a liar.
“That 17-year-old girl never had to have this happen to her,” she told me.
Some quick phone calls confirmed the fact that Mobly and Cross had indeed been charged with attacking Jennifer W. But the Sparks police would not respond on the record to Jennifer W.'s allegations, as her case was still pending.
After some great consternation and debate, we decided at the Tribune to run the story. Jennifer W. was relieved that her side was finally being heard. Soon afterward, The Associated Press picked up the story, and the Reno Gazette-Journal followed. Within a couple of months, Jennifer W. had a lawyer and was on the Today show and Dateline: NBC, ripping the Sparks police for not believing her.
Cross and Mobly, seeing the evidence stacked against them, eventually agreed to a plea bargain, in which Cross admitted guilt to two counts of sexual assault against the 17-year-old, while Mobly admitted guilt to three total counts against the women. But when sentencing day came, Mobly, who was released on $20,000 bond, did not show up. Jennifer W. became hysterical and had to leave the courtroom several times before regaining her composure.
It was at the sentencing that the true ugliness of the crimes Mobly and Cross committed was revealed. Prosecutors said that in the case of the 17-year-old, she escaped from the men’s home while they were driving her car to the desert past Fernley.
When a victim’s car is dumped, that victim usually ends up dead.
Cross, who never made bail, got two life sentences in prison and won’t be eligible for parole for 20 years. Life in jail probably awaits Mobly, too. He will almost assuredly get three life sentences and won’t be eligible for parole for at least 30 years, not counting any extra punishment he receives for skipping bail.
Since the sentencing, and since the Sparks police settled a lawsuit filed by Jennifer W. for $24,999 last year, the fervor from this ugly case—so ugly that certain details of it have not yet been publicly told and may never be publicly told—was quieted, although it never went away. Jennifer W. moved on with her life the best she could, leaving Nevada—although she is reportedly helping out a writer with a book. The Sparks Police Department moved on and is trying to restore its reputation, which was, fairly or unfairly, badly damaged by the case. However, the fact that Mobly was on the loose hung over everyone’s heads.
But now that Mobly is behind bars, everyone can finally put the case behind them—the best that they can.