“It sounded like, boom, boom, boom, underneath that bridge. It was just one shot but it echoed. Birds went everywhere, all up under that bridge. Then just dead silence for just a second.”
It was the 13th of April 2011. A Wednesday. Twenty year old Holly Bobo got up early that morning as she had a nursing exam that day. Holly lived with her parents, Dana and Karen, and her twenty five year old brother Clint Bobo in Darden, Tennessee, United States.
Holly began studying at 4.30am. Her parents were also up early as they had work that day. Dana left at 5.30am for work and Karen left around 7am. When Karen was leaving for work, Holly was still in the house studying. She was sitting at the kitchen table and Karen made her lunch before she left. Clint was still in bed.
Holly Bobo with her boyfriend Drew
At 7.30am, Holly's boyfriend Drew Scott called her. He was turkey hunting that day. A few minutes later, around 7.40am, a neighbor, who was on the way to their construction job, heard a scream coming from the Bobo house:
"Stop! Stop! Stop it!"
He told his mother about it. She rang Karen at the school where she worked. A school secretary answered and the neighbor told her to tell Karen about the scream. It was 7.45 am when that call was made and that was the time Holly normally left for school.
Five minutes later, Clint woke up to the sound of their dog barking. He looked out of his window and saw Holly's car outside. That was unusual as she normally drove to school. He rang Karen. She didn't answer but when she realized she missed his call, she called him back and he told her about the car.
Clint looked out the window again and saw Holly on her knees talking to a man. The man was wearing camouflage and they were deep in conversation. He presumed the man was Drew and it looked like they were having a heated discussion about something. He could not hear what they were talking about but he heard Holly say:
When the school secretary told Karen about the neighbor hearing a scream, Karen called Clint again. He told her Holly was talking to Drew but Karen told him that the man with Holly wasn't Drew. At that point, Clint was not sure what was going on. He believed the man was Drew so he didn't call 911.
Clint then saw Holly walk into the woods with the man and he told Karen. Karen told him to shoot the man. Karen called 911:
"Somebody has my daughter. Please get there now."
Clint got a loaded pistol and walked out the back door through an open garage attached to the house. He saw some blood near Holly's car. His neighbor, the one who was told about the sound of a scream by their son, drove up to the Bobo house. She told Clint about the scream. He called 911. They ran into the woods but they did not find Holly.
Blood found beside Holly Bobo's Car
Police arrived at the Bobo house a little after 8am. Karen and Dana left work also that morning to go home. Karen got back around the same time the police arrived at the house.
Police believed that Holly was taken from her home. At a press conference, police revealed there were no drag marks leading into the woods and they believed that Holly did what the man told her to do. They believed that he had her arm, holding her and guiding her into the woods. The police believed that Holly complied because she was in fear of her life.
Police, Holly's family and friends and volunteers all searched the area and the woods but there was no sign of Holly.
Four days later, on the 15th of April, police found Holly's lunchbox near Bible Hill Road and two days after that, a farmer found Holly’s name, address and phone number written on a piece of paper.
Holly's phone and sim card were later found at separate locations.
But despite the fact that Holly's items were found, the police still had no idea what happened to her.
There were a number of people in the area who were known to police including drug addicts and sex offenders but there was nothing to link any of them to Holly's disappearance. Furthermore , mistakes were made throughout the course of the investigation that caused delays. Some of the people known to police did not have their alibis checked out.
Police got a break in the case in January 2014 when they arrested Dylan Adams. His arrest was not in relation to Holly's disappearance, it was for an unrelated weapons charge. As part of his plea deal, he had to live with a retired police officer and as a result, he told the police officer that he knew what happened to Holly and he made a decision to tell police what he knew about Holly's disappearance.
Dylan told police that he saw Holly with his brother. Police knew his brother well. He had been in trouble before. His name was Zachary "Zach" Adams. According to Dylan, Holly was sitting on a chair in Shayne Austin's house and she was wearing a pink top. Zach told him that he raped Holly and recorded the rape on his phone. Dylan told police that a third man, Jason Autry, was there too.
Dylan later claimed that his confession was coerced.
Police had already questioned Zach around the time of Holly's disappearance but his cell phone records had placed him at a different location. In March 2014, police arrested Zach and charged him with aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder. Jason was charged with the same offenses a month later. Dylan Adams was arrested for tampering with evidence. He was charged with two counts of rape and tampering with evidence and was later indicted on first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and rape charges.
In September 2014, Holly's remains were found by two ginseng hunters in woods not far from her home, about 100 miles southwest of Nashville. On the 7th of September 2014, Ernest Stone said he was hunting for ginseng roots with his cousin when a feeling came over him prompting him to turn around.
They found a skull.
Forensic experts arrived at the scene the next day. They found makeup, a purse, car keys, pencils and pens, earrings and an inhaler. They believed the items belonged to Holly.
A further and more thorough search of the area uncovered additional human remains, including a jaw bone, teeth and ribs.
An Autopsy was carried out. The Medical Examiner said that a hole near the back of Holly's skull was consistent with a gunshot wound and he believed that Holly was shot in the back of the head at a close range with a a .32-caliber gun.
At Zach's Trial, Zach pleaded not guilty. It was the Prosecution's case that Zach was the one who kidnapped Holly. It was their case that he drugged and raped her and then shot her dead. When she was dead, he disposed of her body.
The first witness for the Prosecution was Holly's mother Karen. Karen collapsed on the stand. She told the Judge that she couldn't breathe and she needed medical assistance. When she received assistance, Karen told the Court about the last time she saw her daughter. She remembered her in the kitchen that morning before she left for work. Karen told the Court that she knew Zach. He lived close by but she also taught him when he was in the fourth grade.
The Prosecution's main witness was Jason Autry. Jason told the Court that he was not involved in Holly's abduction.
Jason said that on the day Holly went missing, he contacted Zach that morning at 8.45 am. He wanted to buy a morphine pill. Zach told him to meet him at Shayne Austin's house. Shayne was Jason's cousin. When Jason got there, Zach told him he needed help with a body. Jason thought the body must belong to someone in relation to a drug debt or a deal that went bad. Jason saw the body wrapped in a blanket in the back of Zach's truck. Zach told him that it was Holly Bobo.
Jason agreed to help him dispose of Holly's body.
It was Jason's testimony that they drove to a bridge along the Tennessee River as they planned to throw Holly's body into the river. He said they planned to "gut Holly of her intestines and dump the body" so that her body would not float, allowing turtles to eat the remains. When they removed Holly's body from the truck, they heard a sound and Holly moved. Jason said "this f** b**** is still alive."
Holly was still alive. Jason looked around the area to see if anyone was around. There was nobody in the area and he told Zach it was clear. Zach shot Holly in the back of the head. They decided to put Holly's body in the back of the truck just in case there was somebody around who may have heard something.
Jason went home. He later asked Zach what he did with Holly's body and he told him that he dumped Holly's body at Kelly Ridge.
According to Jason, Zach told him that Shayne and Dylan had also raped Holly. He said that they took turns raping her and drugged her to the point that they thought she was dead.
Jason testified that a few days after Holly was killed, Zach offered him money to kill Dylan. Zach told him that Dylan was talking too much about what had happened that day. Jason agreed to do it but later changed his mind.
The Prosecution called Rebecca Earp, Zach's ex girlfriend, to give evidence. Rebecca told the Court that Zach had turned to methamphetamine and morphine after his grandmother passed away.
According to Rebecca , her relationship with Zach was not a good one. They fought a lot and he threatened her at times. On the day of Holly's disappearance, Zach told her he was going to haul scrap metal. He called her later that day but instead of using his own phone, he used his brother's phone.
Rebecca saw Zach that afternoon and testified that he had what looked like fingernail scratches on his neck and arms. When a TV news report featured Holly's case, Zach said that police would never be able to find her. When they next argued, he told her that he would tie her up just like he did Holly Bobo and no one would ever see her again.
Inmates who were incarcerated with Zach testified that he asked them to tell Dylan that he had better shut up or "he would find himself in a hole next to Holly."
Other witnesses gave evidence about the scratches they observed on Zach and confessions he made about his involvement in Holly's death and statements he made such as:
"I couldn’t have picked a prettier b----. It was fun."
Marco Ross,the Medical Examiner who carried out the Autopsy, gave evidence. He identified a bullet hole that entered the back, right side of the skull and exited through the lower front and said that Holly's death was unquestionably murder, likely dealt from a .32-caliber weapon.
It was the Defense's case that Zach was not guilty. They argued that the police were under pressure to close the investigation. His lawyer told the Court:
“This was the most expensive and most exhaustive investigation in the history of the state of Tennessee, and yet in 2014, there was nothing. ”
They argued that Zach Adams didn’t match Clint’s description of the man in camouflage and that cell records showed that Zach wasn’t at the Bobo residence at the time of Holly’s kidnapping. The cell records showed that his phone had pinged in a different location.
It was their case that a different man was responsible.Terry Britt. Terry was investigated by the police as he was a convicted sex offender and lived close to Holly. They argued that his alibi was weak and that Holly's cousin Natalie told police that Terry was staring at them in the days before Holly disappeared.
But the Jury did not agree with the Defense. They found Zach guilty on all charges and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 50 years for the kidnapping and rape convictions.
Dylan Adams entered an Alford plea. As part of the agreement, he pled guilty to the charges of facilitation of first-degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to 15 years for facilitation of first-degree murder and 35 years for especially aggravated kidnapping, which he is serving concurrently without parole.
Jason Autry pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit murder and facilitation to especially aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to eight years for each charge.
Two brothers,Jeffrey and Mark Pearcy , were charged with tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact. Police believed, based on a statement provided by a witness, that they had knowledge of a video containing images of Holly alive, tied up and crying. They deny that such a video exists. The charges against them were dropped.
Shayne Austin committed suicide. He was never indicted, but there was a possibility that charges would have been brought. His lawyer said that he is innocent and was cooperating with police prior to his death.
Holly represented everything that was good about the community in Darden. She was shy, smart, helpful and ambitious. She treated others with kindness and love and tried to help others. Holly was working towards passing her nursing exams and was planning a future that involved caring for others. She loved her family and they loved her. The men involved in Holly's rape and death represent the dark underbelly of the community, the type of underbelly that exists in communities, towns and cities all across the world. They were not working towards creating a better life for themselves, their world revolved around Methamphetamine and doing exactly what they wanted to do with no regard for anybody else.