(SAVANNAH, Tenn.) — A man who lived in the “dark, dark world” of methamphetamine and morphine abducted a Tennessee nursing student from her rural home in 2011, then drugged, raped and shot her before discarding her body and bragging about it, a prosecutor said Monday.
Paul Hagerman made the statements during opening arguments in the trial of Zachary Adams in Savannah, Tennessee. Adams, 33, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, raping and killing Holly Bobo, who was 20 when she disappeared from her home in Parsons, Tennessee, on April 13, 2011. Her remains were found 3 ½ years later near her home in Decatur County, located about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Nashville.
Bobo’s disappearance led to a massive search of the fields, farms and woods of West Tennessee. Her case received national attention, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it was the most exhaustive and expensive investigation the agency ever conducted.
Judge C. Creed McGinley moved the trial from Decatur County to neighboring Hardin County in order to secure an unbiased jury. Adams, who has a criminal record that includes drug possession and assault, faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
After kidnapping, drugging and raping Bobo, Adams wrapped her in a blanket and took her in his truck to a friend’s home, Hagerman said. He then called another friend, Jason Autry, and they went to the Tennessee River to “gut” her and put her in the water, Hagerman said.
Bobo made a sound and moved, so Adams shot her in the head, the prosecutor said. Adams got rid of her remains and described her to others in vulgar terms. He then bragged that the world would not find out what happened to Bobo, Hagerman said.
Two men looking for ginseng found Bobo’s remains in woods not far from Adams’ home in September 2014. Hagerman said authorities found a gun Adams used to kill Bobo.
“He took her, he raped her, he killed her, he discarded her, he covered it up, he almost got away with it,” he said. “But he didn’t.”
Jennifer Thompson, Adams’ defense attorney, said in her opening argument that her client is not guilty. She said Adams was charged after investigators interviewed several other men and they needed someone to blame. Authorities found no hair, fingerprints or DNA belonging to Bobo in a search of Adams’ home before he was charged in 2014, Thompson said.
Thompson said Autry, who also is charged with kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo, gave investigators statements about her killing in return for a reduced charge.
“He basically sells his death penalty” to prosecutors, Thompson said of Autry. “There are real problems with his story.”
Autry’s attorney told the judge in February that there is no need to schedule a trial for him, raising the possibility that Autry could testify.
Testifying later Monday, Bobo’s brother Clint said he thought his sister was walking with her boyfriend into woods behind her house on the day she went missing.
Clint Bobo said he heard voices coming from the carport behind the family’s home. He said he thought his sister was having a discussion with her boyfriend, Drew Scott, and they sounded upset.
When he looked outside, Clint Bobo said he saw his sister walking with a man wearing camouflage hunting gear into the tree-line. He said he thought it was Scott at first, but later realized the man looked heavier and stockier than his sister’s boyfriend, he said.
Clint Bobo said he went outside and saw blood in the carport.
Bobo said he spoke with his mother, Karen, on the phone. He said she told him the person was not Scott and ordered her son to “get a gun and shoot him.”
Bobo said he did not do that because he was confused about what was happening.
Clint Bobo said he met both Adams and Autry after his sister disappeared, as his family investigated tips received from local residents. He said the person who walked into the woods with his sister didn’t look like Adams or Autry.
The trial was briefly delayed when Karen Bobo passed out on the witness stand. McGinley said she had a legitimate medical issue and was not trying to garner sympathy from the jury. The judge denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial.
Karen Bobo was treated by paramedics before finishing her testimony.
The jury of 15 people is being sequestered. Three alternates will be chosen after testimony concludes.