SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) — The case against a man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing a Tennessee nursing student who disappeared from her family’s rural home six years ago is “absolutely full of holes” and based on “non-evidence,” a defense attorney said Thursday.
Jennifer Thompson delivered closing arguments Thursday in the trial of Zachary Adams in Savannah, Tennessee. Adams is charged with the abduction, rape and slaying of Holly Bobo, who was 20 when she was reported missing in Parsons on April 13, 2011.
Two ginseng hunters found Bobo’s remains 3 ½ years ago in woods in Decatur County, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Nashville. Adams, 33, faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
Bobo’s disappearance sparked a massive search and the case received national attention. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has said the investigation was the most exhaustive and expensive in the agency’s history.
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Jurors deliberated for about 3 ½ hours before stopping for the day. They will resume Friday.
Bobo’s brother Clint testified that he saw an unidentified man wearing camouflage leading his sister into woods behind the family’s home. Prosecutors said Adams was involved in the “dark world” of methamphetamine and morphine when he and two other men abducted Bobo, held her against her will, raped her, killed her and hid her remains.
Investigators found no DNA evidence connecting Adams to Bobo. Instead, they relied on statements from Adams’ friends and fellow jail inmates who claim Adams said he harmed her.
Two other men, Jason Autry and Adams’ brother, John Dylan Adams, also are charged with kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo. Autry, who was on the list of witnesses who had been offered immunity in the case, testified during the trial. Autry said he was seeking leniency in return for his testimony.
Autry said Adams used graphic details when he told Autry that he, his brother and friend Shayne Austin raped Bobo. Autry said he injected himself with morphine and methamphetamine before he served as a lookout as Adams shot Bobo under a bridge spanning the Tennessee River.
Thompson said Autry already knew of evidence accumulated in the case when he told investigators his story in January 2017 — about three years after he and Zachary Adams were charged. She said Autry was too street smart to allow himself to be manipulated into helping Adams dispose of Bobo’s body, and challenged several details of his story.
Thompson said Autry sold his death penalty to the government.
“The only price he had to pay was this tall tale,” Thompson said.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Paul Hagerman said it was Austin who walked off with Bobo into the woods. Then Austin and the Adams brothers raped Bobo in Austin’s grandmother’s barn, Hagerman said.
Austin had reached an immunity agreement that depended on Bobo’s body being recovered from the place where Austin said it was buried. The deal was rescinded after prosecutors said he wasn’t truthful. Austin was found dead in a Florida hotel room in what police said was an apparent suicide in February 2015.
Hagerman also pointed to statements Adams made to friends and jail inmates about Bobo.
Friend Anthony Phoenix used an expletive to describe how Adams told him that he “couldn’t have picked” a prettier woman. Christopher Swift said Adams asked him if God would forgive him for the “Holly killing,” while they were both jailed together.
Another jail inmate, Shawn Cooper, said he spoke with Adams as Cooper awaited transfer from the Chester County Jail to the Obion County Jail.
Cooper said Adams told him his brother was being held in Obion County Jail. Adams then asked him to relay to his brother that he should stay quiet about the Bobo case or he would “put him in a hole beside her,” Cooper said.
Thompson, the defense attorney, said there’s no question that people involved in the case are “talkers” and noted that Adams was a meth user.
“Zach Adams has said some stupid things over the years,” Thompson said. “That does not mean he killed Holly Bobo.”