Prosecutor: Holly Bobo deserves justice; jury resumes deliberations Friday

Holly Bobo (Source: WMC Action News 5 archives)
Holly Bobo (Source: WMC Action News 5 archives)

DECATUR COUNTY, TN (WMC) - After 10 days of testimony and debate, the fate of Zach Adams is now in the hands of the jury.

Adams is on trial for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo in 2011.

Court started Thursday with the judge reading over each of Adams' charges, including rape, kidnapping, and murder.

The jury then listened closing arguments from the prosecution.

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman kicked off closing statements by talking about Holly's mother being in the same room as her daughter's killer.

He then described how the murder was carried out, under the I-40 bridge.

"The secret began with a gunshot under the bridge that echoed. These two men bonded together because of the terrible, hands-on work that they put together," Hagerman said.

Hagerman mentioned that the secret had not been kept well; he said within two days, Holly's papers were found by Shayne Austin's trailer and his grandmother's house.

He mentioned how Zach Adams was seen running frantically within days, and seen vacuuming mattresses and cars.

"The fear is that Holly's DNA was on him," Hagerman said. "...He had to get rid of any trace of her."

Hagerman said Adams' alibi is suspect, because it is only verified by people who were also involved in Holly Bobo's murder.

He also blamed investigators for only following leads that pointed to Terry Britt as the killer. He said if they had looked into Adams and his friends first, this case would've been over years ago.

"If somebody had just been listening, the very day of the abduction, the night after the abduction, 911 has to come to his house," Hagerman said.

Hagerman said if lead investigator Terry Dicus had been listening, he would have heard what Zach was saying. Instead, he came up with a theory about sexual predators.

He said finally, the people around Dylan Adams came forward, and investigators listened.

"The same names we'd been hearing since the second day of the investigation: Zach Adams, Shayne Austin, Dylan Adams, Jason Autry."

He said all four were just as responsible as the other for Bobo's death.

"She was never going to come out of that blanket alive; not a chance."

Hagerman said the story was finally told in 2016 when Jason Autry came forward.

He noted the corroboration to the stories, such as a cable guy coming to Austin's home and hearing a neighbor cutting grass.

He discussed Dicus' "tunnel vision" in attempt to charge Terry Britt with the crime, which ended with, as Dicus admitted, no evidence.

He questioned how investigator Walker was "messed with" by Terry Britt, who Hagerman said is, "not a brain surgeon."

"Tell me about the facts and the evidence in this case. We spent way too much time on speculation that had already been shot down, on suspects that had already been shot down."

Hagerman said everyone agrees Holly was taken, kidnapped, raped, and killed--so the only question is if they have the right people.

"They've got no body, and they've got no gun," Hagerman said that's what two witnesses recalled Adams saying in March 2014 about the Holly Bobo investigation.

"Who on Earth, on this planet, knew in March of 2014 that she had been shot?" Hagerman questioned. "Her body hadn't been found."

He said this statement tells you everything you need to know.

"It's time to do what is right. It's time to listen to the evidence, to make decisions on the evidence, what matters. The time is now."

The state then closed their final argument and opened the courtroom up for the defense.

Defense attorney Jennifer Thompson then offered her closing argument.

"The thing for you to think of today is that non-evidence is not evidence," Thompson led with.

Thompson went step-by-step pointing out discrepancies and mistakes in the prosecution's description of what happened.

She brought up a pair of pink underwear found near Austin's home. That pair of underwear was provided as evidence, despite not belonging to Holly Bobo.

Thompson said the government added in the underwear to "add to the creep factor."

She said Adams' white pickup truck was seen driving in a different direction than the killer would've been driving. She said a neighbor mowing his lawn at the time of the kidnapping never heard anything suspicious, and a footprint found in the woods where Holly vanished belonged to her brother Clint Bobo.

She pointed to a palm print that was proven to not belong to the Adams brothers, Austin, or Autry, but did not exclude Terry Britt.

She said the government knew the mattress investigators saw outside Adams' home was unrelated to the crime, but brought in to try to paint a picture that Adams was cleaning out evidence.

"There is absolutely multiple reasonable doubts in this case," Thompson said.

She then described the government's story as laid out in testimonies.

Thompson then argued that there was more to the story and the government's story is "full of holes."

She also argued that none of the four men accused fit the description that Clint Bobo gave to authorities. She noted that if Clint thought someone was there that day, he would not have waited 10 minutes to call 911, which means the person that came to abduct Holly was not wearing a disguise.

"Let's talk about Jason Autry. Jason Autry has sold his death penalty to the government," Thompson said.

Thompson said Autry made up a tall-tale in January to free himself of a potential death penalty. She said his two death penalty lawyers made sure that the death penalty was taken off the table before he testified.

"The death penalty changes everything," she said. She said Autry spent three years sitting in jail and coming up with his story.

She said Autry's story was so believable because he included so many bits of truth in it, and left in a lot of details to make Zach Adams look like a bad person.

She then talked about Shayne Austin. "The government wants you to believe Shayne killed himself out of guilt in the case," Thompson said.

She argued that Austin was a long-time drug user (as testified by his mother), and that this led to his suicide.

She said after the abduction, many people in the county make light of Holly's situation, using her name as a verb and faking to claim responsibility. Terry Dicus said as many as 20 people were brought to investigators' attention for this.

Thompson argued that Autry knew Bobo was related to him and fabricated that part of the story, along with others, because the state wouldn't sell a death penalty for a lesser story than the one they received.

Thompson argued that Terry Britt fit the bill as Bobo's killer: he was accused of being a stalker, he fit the description, and his alibi was suspicious.

"Terry Britt is most likely the real abductor and killer in this case," Thompson said.

She also mentioned cell phone records, which she said does not match up with Autry's story.

Thompson tried to discredit Dylan Adams' confessions by noting that he was in special education classes in school and could not comprehend complex things.

"In this country, we do not convict on suspicion and rumor," Thompson said in her final summary for the jury.

The judge sent the court into a lunch recess.

Prosecuting attorney Jennifer Nichols was the last to deliver closing arguments before the jury was sent back to deliberate.

Nichols asked the jury to consider what Bobo's last two hours were like before she was killed.

She also spoke about Bobo's hopes and dreams, which were cut short.

"She was just trying to be the best student nurse she could be," Nichols said.

Nichols went on to summarize the testimonies heard throughout out the trial.

She pointed out that an expert for the defense team said the phone data was consistent with the location of Holly Bobo's abduction and eventual murder.

She disputed Thompson's argument that Terry Britt was most likely Bobo's killer, and said investigators found Britt to be a dead end. When they searched his computer, the most incriminating thing they found was four searches for porn websites.

Nichols said Bobo's family has been waiting six years for justice for their daughter. It's hard to turn it over, she said, but it's time.

"If you believe the defense theory, then ladies and gentlemen, then let them go, which is what you're supposed to do," Nichols said.

However, Nichols added, if the jury sees Zach Adams as the one behind Holly's kidnapping, rape, and murder, then return with the right verdict.

Nichols said if she not been kidnapped and murdered, Holly Bobo probably never would have been famous. She would have eventually become a nurse, and no one outside of her community would have known her name. But since she was, Nichols said, Holly and her family deserve justice.

"She's entitled to this," Nichols said.

Nichols finished by urging the jury to go back and deliberate with clear minds. She also encouraged them to take as long as they need to reach the right verdict.

"Do what needs to be done," Nichols said. "We'll be waiting right here, as long as it takes."

The jury deliberated for almost three hours before they were dismissed around 6 p.m. They will resume deliberations first thing Friday morning.

WMC Action News 5 will bring you the verdict live on and the WMC Action News 5 app as soon as it happens.

Below you can read our previous stories from the trial. Each story has video of every witness testimony.

Day 4: Jason Autry testifies all day, explains how Zach Adams killed Holly Bobo

Day 5: TBI never found Bobo's DNA at Zach Adams' home

Day 8: Defense calls 7 witnesses in Zach Adams' murder trial

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