Slain Student's Family Praises Verdict 09/23 12:00
SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) -- It was a prayer circle 6 years in the making.
Shortly after a man was convicted of kidnapping and killing Tennessee
nursing student Holly Bobo, her family and friends held hands, closed their
eyes and thanked God for the guilty verdict.
Family pastor Don Franks spoke softly as those who loved Bobo wept. He told
them they will see Holly again.
"She's waiting on the other side," Franks said. The group then said
After a tense, 11-day trial, a jury in Savannah, Tennessee, found Zachary
Adams guilty Friday of kidnapping, raping and murdering Bobo. She was 20 in
April 2011 when she was led into the woods behind her home by an unidentified
man wearing camouflage in the rural town of Parsons.
Bobo's disappearance led to a frantic search of the farms, fields and barns
of western Tennessee, and her case received national attention. Her remains
were found in September 2014 by two men hunting for ginseng in woods not far
from her home in Decatur County, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of
Adams, 33, avoided a possible death penalty by agreeing to a sentence of
life in prison plus 50 years.
Before her skull was discovered, Bobo's relatives and friends prayed she
would be found alive. After her death was confirmed, their focus switched to
finding justice for the young woman known for her singing at church.
"She finally has the peace in the valley that she sang about," family friend
Rickey Alexander said.
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.
Defense attorney Jennifer Thompson patted Adams on the shoulder and spoke
into his ear shortly after the verdict was read. Outside the courtroom, she
said she was extremely disappointed in the verdict and maintained that Adams
Adams was very upset and trembling after the verdict, she said.
"He was really shaking his head," Thompson said. "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 3 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
Autry was on a list of witnesses who were 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.
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
During closing arguments, 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,"