SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) — 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.
The sequestered panel of 12 people began considering physical evidence and witness testimony Thursday in the trial of Zachary Adams in Savannah, Tennessee. They deliberated 3 ½ hours and will resume Friday morning — the trial's 11th day.
Adams has pleaded not guilty to abducting, raping and killing Bobo. She was 20 when she walked into the woods behind her family's house with an unidentified man wearing camouflage and disappeared on April 13, 2011.
Her remains were found 3 ½ years later, near her home in Parsons.
Judge C. Creed McGinley moved the trial to Hardin County in search of an unbiased jury.
Bobo's disappearance sparked a massive search in the fields, barns and woods of western Tennessee, 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.
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 in Austin's grandmother's barn. Autry said he injected himself with morphine and methamphetamine before he served as a lookout as Adams shot Bobo under a bridge spanning the scenic Tennessee River.
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.
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, defense attorney Jennifer Thompson said during closing arguments Thursday.
Autry was too "street smart" to allow himself to be manipulated into helping Adams dispose of Bobo's body, Thompson said, and challenged details of his story.
Thompson said Autry sold his death penalty to the government.