The Murder of Holly Bobo

The Murder of Holly Bobo

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20-year-old Holly Bobo disappeared on April 13th, 2011 from her family home in Darden, Tennessee. She was last seen by her brother, Clint, walking into the woods outside of her home with a man wearing camouflage. After 3 years, in September 2014, her partial remains were found in Decatur County. Her death was ruled a homicide via gunshot to the head.

What happened to Holly and who is the man in camouflage?

On April 13th, 2011 at 4:30 am, Holly Bobo woke up to study for a nursing exam she was scheduled to take that day at 8 am. Her father, Dana, spoke with her for a few minutes and left for work at 5:30 am. Her mother, Karen, woke up shortly after, prepared lunch and breakfast for Holly and left for her teaching job at 7 am. At that point Holly had already gotten up, dressed and was sitting at their dining table.

Around 7 am Holly talked to her friend and classmate Hanna Reece on the phone about their upcoming test. Shortly before 7:30 am, she received a call from her boyfriend, Drew Scott, who had been turkey hunting on the other side of Decatur County on Holly?s grandmother?s property. Apparently, a relative of Holly?s mom didn?t recognize Drew and he had to explain that he had permission to hunt on their property. A few phone calls between Holly, Drew and Karen to clear up the confusion followed.

Image for postDrew and Holly

Around 7:40 am a close neighbor heard a scream from the Bobo?s house, told his mother about it and left for work. At 7:45 am the neighbor?s mother called Karen Bobo at work and left a message about the scream. 5 minutes later Clint Bobo, Holly?s brother, woke up to a dog barking and voices outside the home. He saw Holly?s car still parked at their home and called his mother to see if Holly had gotten a ride to school, though his mother did not pick up.

According to an interview, he then slightly raised the blinds and looked out of his window. There he saw Holly and a man in camouflage inside the garage, kneeling down and talking to each other. He assumed that the man in camouflage was Drew, because Clint knew about his plans to go turkey hunting that day and Drew would?ve worn camouflage for this hunt. Clint further stated that he could not make out most of what they were saying, only that Holly seemed upset and shouted, ?No, why?? at the man. He figured that this was Drew and Holly breaking things off.

Image for postClint Bobo

At the same time, Karen Bobo called her son after receiving the neighbor?s message. Clint told his mother what was going on and she told him that the man Holly was talking to was, in fact, not Drew Scott and to shoot him. Since he didn?t hear the scream and his mother didn?t tell him about it either, Clint was confused and replied: ?You want me to shoot Drew?? That?s when things happened pretty quickly. Clint didn?t act on his mother?s request since he didn?t want to call 911 over a break-up, so Karen Bobo called 911 from work. Clint went to check on Holly again and this time saw the man in camouflage and Holly walking into the woods. That?s the last time Holly Bobo was seen alive.

A little before 8 am, Karen Bobo called her house again. That?s when Clint told her about Holly and the man walking into the woods. Karen told him again that the man was not Drew and to call 911. This was when Clint got a loaded pistol and walked out the back door and through the open garage. He spotted a puddle of blood by Holly?s car, but he was still not concerned as he thought the blood belonged to a turkey Drew had shot. That?s when the neighbor?s mother pulled into the driveway and told him about the screams. He finally realized the gravity of the situation and called 911.

Image for postThe puddle of blood found in the Bobo?s garage

Around 8:10 am, the first deputy of Decatur County arrived at the house. Cell phone records showed that at 8:17 am Holly?s cell phone was moving away from her home, heading North to a wooded area near I-40.

Karen Bobo arrived home around the same time as the police. She begged law enforcement to put up roadblocks, but officers declined to do so. Instead, she claims, police officers and neighbors walked freely throughout the crime scene and therefore compromised it. The TBI denies these allegations.

On April 15, 2011 law enforcement searched an area near Bible Hill Road, where authorities had found a lunchbox, believed to belong to Holly.

On April 17, 2011, a farmer found a paper with Holly?s name, address and phone number on it.

While out searching, one of Holly?s friends found her phone in a culvert.

In May 2011, a co-worker of Clint Bobo was on a bike ride with her brother when they found a SIM Card that turned out to belong to Holly.

Image for postState prosecutor Jennifer Nichols holds up Holly Bobo?s lunchbox

The Investigation

Clint described the man as being between 5?10 and 6? tall, weighing 180?200 lbs and having dark hair sticking out from under his cap. The man was wearing Mossy Oak camouflage and he described the man?s voice as deep and low.

Very early on Zach Adams was interviewed by the lead case agent, Terry Dicus. Zach Adams is known in the area as a criminal and meth addict with a history of violent behavior. He has an extensive criminal record including assault, domestic violence, and drug possession. Adams told Dicus that he was at home with his girlfriend and brother Dylan, the morning of Holly?s disappearance. Zach Adams? girlfriend, Rebecca Earp, corroborated his statement. He said that he and Dylan then drove to pick up their friend Shayne Austin around 10 am. They then went to a gas station where they noticed the huge amount of police vehicles driving down the interstate.

Image for postZach and Dylan Adams

Surveillance from a pharmaceutical company showed a vehicle, possibly Dylan Adam?s vehicle, off Highway 641 in Parsons, Tennessee around 11 on the same day. Agent Dicus then reviewed Zach Adams? phone records and discovered that Zach could not have been involved in Holly?s disappearance as at 8:28 am Zach?s phone pinged in the area of his residence, several miles from Holly?s home. According to Dicus, Zach Adams passed a polygraph test as well.

The investigators then focused on Terry Britt, a registered sex offender convicted of multiple rapes who lived near the Bobo?s home. He fit the description and was known to stalk young, blond women. Clint Bobo also identified Britt?s voice as sounding similar to the man in camouflage. Agent Dicus had focused on Britt after finding that the alibi Britt gave was ?weak?. According to Terry Britt (or ?Chester the Molester? as he is known by locals), he spent the morning shopping for a bathtub with his wife. The TBI later found out that his wife was actually at work that morning and Britt had called her to come home early. They produced a hand-written receipt for the bathtub purchase, but the store had no sale on record. Later, cadaver dogs had also ?hit? on a shovel and hammer on Britt?s property.

Image for postTerry Britt

TBI agent Dicus was removed from the case in 2013, due to ?tunnel vision? and lack of objectivity. Terry Britt was never charged, but also never officially ruled out.

In January 2014, Dylan Adams was arrested on an unrelated weapon charge and was looking at 10 years in prison. However, he was given a plea deal where he avoided jail time but was required to live with Dennis Benjamin, a retired police officer, who Dylan had never met. He received this unusual plea deal due to being mentally disabled. After 5 weeks, Benjamin called 911 reporting that Dylan was ?ready to confess? about Holly Bobo?s disappearance. According to Dylan, he had been at Zach?s house and had seen Holly sitting on a chair wearing a pink shirt. He said that Zach was wearing camouflage shorts, a black cut-off sleeve shirt, and green Crocs. Dylan also placed his friend Jason Autry at the house and said that Zach had told him he raped Holly and recorded it on his phone.

Based on Dylan?s statement, a search warrant for Zach?s house was obtained on February 28th, 2014. However, Dylan later recanted his confession and claimed he had been coerced.

On March 5th, 2014 Zach Adams is indicted on aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of Holly Bobo.

On April 29th, 2014 Jason Autry is also indicted on the same charges, though he proclaimed his innocence.

Image for postJason Autry

After obtaining phone records, investigators questioned Shayne Austin who was in contact with Zach several times that day. Prosecutors offered Austin total immunity for testifying against Zach and for providing information where Holly?s body was disposed of. Shayne agreed but was unwilling, or rather unable, to lead them to the body or give them any credible leads. His immunity deal was withdrawn, but prosecutors reserved the right to charge Shayne at any time.

In May 2014 a woman named Sandra King came forward claiming her friend Jeffrey Pearcy had shown her a video of who she believed to be Holly Bobo, tied up and crying. According to Sandra she couldn?t watch the whole video but believed it was rape and that Zach Adams was also in the recording. Supposedly, Jeffrey had gotten the video from his brother Mark Pearcy, who shot the video. Investigators staged a recorded phone call between Jeffrey and Sandra where she told Jeffrey ?That video of Holly, if it had been you, I would have watched it?. To which he replied, ?I know?.

On May 29th, 2014 Jeffrey and Mark Pearcy were charged with tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact in Holly?s murder.

Image for postMark and Jeffrey Pearcy

In a preliminary hearing in July 2014, Jeffrey Pearcy said that he couldn?t hear what King was saying on the phone, since he was driving with his windows down during the phone call. He also said that he believed Sandra King was mistaken and what she saw was a sex tape with Mark Pearcy and his ex-wife, who also happens to be named Holly. Prosecutors collected the phones belonging to the Pearcy brothers, in order to find said sex tape.

On September 7th, 2014, 3 years after Holly?s disappearance, her partial remains were found by ginseng hunters behind a cell tower next to I-40. They stumbled upon a bucket, turned it over, only to find what was later identified as Holly?s car keys, makeup, inhaler, and a small bag with pens. After discovering the bucket, they also found Holly?s skull and partial remains scattered closeby. The skull was found with a hole in the back of the head, consistent with a gunshot wound.

Image for postEvidence photo of Holly?s skull with gunshot wound

On September 17th, 2014 Dylan Adams was arrested for tampering with evidence. Following his arrest, he admitted he was involved in the rape of Holly.

On October 14th, 2014 Dylan Adams was charged with two counts of rape and tampering with evidence.

In October 2014, the charges against Jeffrey and Mark Pearcy were dropped. Investigators had not been able to find the alleged sex tape and weren?t able to prove any connection between the Pearcy brothers and the other men accused.

In February 2015 Florida police found Shayne Austin dead in his hotel room. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging.

In May 2015 Dylan Adams was indicted on first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and rape charges.

In 2016, the alleged murder weapon, a 32 caliber revolver, was recovered. According to a witness, Victor Dinsmore, Shayne Austin had traded the gun with him for 12 morphine pills in 2011. Dinsmore then gave the gun to his wife for protection but was later concerned that the gun had ?a body on it? and dumped it in a creek. He waited until 2016 to notify the TBI about the gun and then helped investigators recover it. Dinsmore was a person of interest at first, due to a prior rape conviction and the fact that he lived close to where Holly?s body was found but was given immunity later.

The Trial

Zach Adams? trial began in September 2017. The prosecution?s case was largely based on circumstantial evidence and witness statements, as there was no DNA or other forensic evidence tying him to the murder of Holly.

Jason Autry had cut a deal with the prosecutors and reportedly received federal immunity for agreeing to be a key witness. He testified that while he was not part of Holly?s abduction, he helped Zach Adams dispose of the body. According to Jason he tried to get in touch with Zach the day of Holly?s kidnapping and was able to reach him around 8:45 am. Zach initially claimed to be busy but later called Jason back, asking for help at Shayne Austin?s house. When Jason arrived at the house, he noticed a fire in a burn barrel, Dylan Adams standing in the doorway shirtless, and Zach in the yard with a gun holstered on his side. Jason stated that Zach had told him he needed help hiding the body of Holly Bobo and that the body was wrapped in a blanket in the back of Zach?s truck.

According to Jason, they drove to a bridge along the Tennessee River, underneath I-40. Initially, they had planned to ?gut? the body so it wouldn?t float but discovered that Holly was still alive, so Zach Adams shot her in the back of the head. They then loaded the body back into the truck and Zach dropped Jason off. He later told Jason that he had dumped the body near Kelly Ridge, though Holly?s remains were found in a different location. When Jason asked Zach why he was at Holly?s house that morning, Zach stated that he went over there to teach Clint Bobo how to make meth and Holly caught them.

Image for postJason Autry during trial. Photo by WZTV FOX 17 News Nashville

Later that day Jason met up with Zach, Shayne, and Dylan again to go get drugs. Allegedly Shayne had told Zach that he didn?t have to kill Holly and Zach had replied that Shayne was just as guilty, implying that he had also raped Holly. Jason also claimed that after a few days of zero contact with Zach, they met up and Zach asked him to kill Dylan to keep him from telling the truth about Holly Bobo. Jason initially declined, but later invited Dylan to go fishing on the Tennessee River. He had planned to kill Dylan there until another boat spotted them and Jason abandoned his plan.

An important piece of testimony came from Rebecca Earp, Zach?s then-girlfriend. In 2011 she had initially told investigators that Zach Adams? wasn?t involved, but changed her story after his arrest in 2014. She claimed that she was afraid of Zach due to his violent behavior and addiction to drugs. According to Rebecca, he had never mentioned Holly before her disappearance but had made some comments after her abduction. She also claimed that when a report came on the news about Holly, Shayne Austin laughed and Zach Adams stated that ?they?ll never be able to find her.? Rebecca further alleged that during a fight Zach told her that he would tie her up like he did Holly and that no one would ever see her again. She also claimed that Zach and John Mitchell, a friend of Zach?s, had a blue plastic bin and made comments that everything was ready to go to dispose of Holly?s body. They later claimed that it was material left from making meth and that it was a joke.

Rebecca Earp then testified that Zach Adams had lied about his alibi. He had told investigators that he woke up around 10 am the day Holly was kidnapped. Rebecca, however, claimed that he never went to sleep and called her at around 6:30 am saying he was going to haul scrap with Victor Dinsmore. She thought that he was lying because he had called her from Dylan Adams? phone and that she had left him a note asking him to do laundry that he never did. However, evidence showed that there was no call from Dylan?s phone to her and that her cell records showed that she had spent the night at her mother?s house. Later in her testimony, she claimed that Zach?s comment ?they will never be able to find her? was made the day of Holly?s disappearance. When questioned by the defense, she said that he might?ve made that comment a day after.

Image for postRebecca Earp

The defense claimed that Zach Adams was completely innocent, claiming that Dylan Adams? confession was coerced by retired police officer and Bobo family friend, Dennis Benjamin. They also pointed out that Zach Adams didn?t match Clint Bobo?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 Zach Adams? phone had pinged in completely different locations, so Jason Autry?s statement that Zach had told him he was there to make meth was false. The defense alleged that Jason made up the story for a reduced sentence. When investigators played voice samples to Clint, he had identified one sample as closely matching the voice of the perpetrator. That sample belonged to Terry Britt, the earlier investigated sex offender. Terry Britt was also the only one that had not been ruled out as the originator of a palmprint found on Holly?s car.

The case against the men charged with Holly Bobo?s murder has been met with strong criticism. In 2014, Jason Autry?s attorney accused the prosecutor of arresting the men without probable cause, then adding and dropping charges strategically before hearings to avoid having to produce evidence for those charges. For example, when Dylan Adams? evidence tampering charges were dropped just to be charged with rape days after. He also noted the similar treatment of Mark Pearcy.

Zach Adams? attorney has repeatedly said that evidence was not turned over to the defense, like the DNA evidence that was supposedly found in Zach Adam?s house. No DNA evidence was ever turned over to the defense or produced during trial. The judge presiding over the case complained about the delays and the prosecution?s failure to turn over evidence.

The TBI suspended its investigation of Holly?s murder case after the District Attorney Matt Stowe accused them and other law enforcement agencies of misconduct. The TBI reopened their investigation after Stowe recused himself from the case and Jennifer Nichols was appointed as special prosecutor.

On September 22nd, 2017, the jury found Zach Adams guilty on all charges and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 50 years for the kidnapping and rape convictions.

On January 22nd, 2018, 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.

As of March 5th, 2020, Jason Autry has remained in prison without bond awaiting his trial, a trial that won?t happen because of the plea deal he has with the prosecution for his testimony against Zach Adams. He won?t be released until Zach Adams? defense appeals Zach?s sentence. He has been waiting for 6 years because the trial transcripts of the entire trial weren?t complete until August 2019.

However, on February 27th, 2020, Zach Adams? attorney filed an appeal, citing 56 mistakes that were supposedly made at the trial including a biased judge and an unfair jury. The appeal challenges the judge?s decision to move the trial from Decatur to Hardin county, which is right next to each other, arguing that the jurors were still biased against Zach. The defense also alleges that the judge allowed the prosecution to present surprise evidence, like an incriminating photo line-up. The appellate court now has to decide if one or more of the alleged mistakes were enough to deny Zach Adams a fair trial.

On March 10th, 2020 the Tennessee House and Senate approved the Holly Bobo Act. It raises the Tennessee amber alert age limit from under 18, to under 21. The Holly Bobo Act does not change the activation criteria for AMBER Alerts, which is a federally funded program.

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