SAVANNAH, Tenn. — A Tennessee man was convicted Friday of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 20-year-old nursing student who disappeared from her home six years ago.
Zachary Adams was found guilty after an 11-day trial in Savannah, Tennessee. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Holly Bobo was 20 when she was reported missing from her home in rural Parsons on April 13, 2011.
Bobo’s disappearance led to a massive search and her case received national attention. Her remains were found in September 2014 in woods not far from her home in Decatur County, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Nashville.
Adams showed no reaction when the verdict was read. Defense attorney Jennifer Thompson patted Adams on the shoulder and spoke into his ear shortly afterward.
After the jury was let out of the courtroom, Bobo’s mother Karen hugged prosecutor Jennifer Nichols and Bobo’s father Dana hugged Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn.
A sentencing hearing involving the same jury that decided the verdict will begin Saturday. The murder charge can carry the death penalty.
Rickey Alexander, a Bobo family friend, said the verdict was “6 1/2 years in the making.” Alexander noted that Bobo used to sing at church. “She finally has the peace in the valley that she sang about.”
Thompson, the defense attorney, said she was extremely disappointed in the verdict, and she said Adams was very upset. “He was really shaking his head. He was white as a ghost.”
Judge C. Creed McGinley moved the trial from Decatur County to neighboring Hardin County in search of an unbiased jury. The jury deliberated 3½ hours Thursday and about seven hours Friday before reaching a verdict.
“I’m not sure you can get an unbiased jury” in a case that has received so much attention in the area, Thompson said.
Prosecutor Paul Hagerman declined comment.
Two other men, Jason Autry and Adams’ brother John Dylan Adams, also face charges of kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo.
Autry testified against Adams, telling jurors that Adams told him that he, his brother and their friend Shayne Austin had raped Bobo. Autry also said that he served as a lookout as Adams shot Bobo near a river in the day she was reported missing.
Autry was on a list of witnesses offered immunity in the case. He said he testified because he wanted leniency.
Autry’s lawyer has told the judge that a trial does not need to be set for Autry, indicating he has reached a deal with prosecutors. A trial date has not been set for John Dylan Adams.
The TBI has said that the Bobo investigation is the most exhaustive and expensive in the agency’s history.
But investigators found no DNA evidence connecting Bobo to any of the men. Instead, they relied on Autry’s story and other testimony from friends and jail inmates who said Adams spoke of harming Bobo.
Thompson had accused Autry of selling his “tall tale” to prosecutors in return for the death penalty.
“A lot of people believed that if you say something, it must be true,” Thompson said.