SAVANNAH, Tenn. (WMC) - Nine years of uncertainty came to an end Monday for the family of Holly Bobo.
The 20-year-old west Tennessee nursing student disappeared from Decatur County in 2011, and her remains were later found in 2014. Monday afternoon the final suspect in her murder case entered a guilty plea but will be walking free.
Jason Autry walked into a Hardin County courtroom with the Bobo family sitting steps away. Prosecutors said the family supported the deal, closing a 9-year chapter of pain over Holly’s murder.
Autry entered a guilty plea to facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping and solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The sentence was eight years, but with credit served, Autry is a free man. Autry will still be monitored through supervised release as a result of an unrelated federal charge.
“He is walking out,” Michael Scholl, Autry’s defense attorney said. “He is extremely remorseful for everything that has happened and extremely sorry for what has taken place. And he wants to show everybody that he has reformed himself.”
Prosecutors gave Autry partial immunity in return for his testimony three years ago in trial against Zach Adams, who investigators say shot and killed Bobo. Adams was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping in the case.
Adams is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 50 years, and earlier this summer his request for a new trial was denied.
Zach’s brother Dylan entered an Alford plea to especially aggravated kidnapping and facilitation of first-degree murder and is serving 35 years. (An Alford plea means a defendant accepts a guilty plea without an admission of guilt.)
Prosecutors say Jason Autry’s testimony answered key questions for the family and investigators like where Holly Bobo was killed and who pulled the trigger. They said Autry had been cooperative with prosecutors since early in the investigation.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys said the specifics of the deal only recently emerged, within the past thirty days.
“This guilty plea takes into account the truthfulness and credibility he had on the witness stand,” Paul Hagerman, Shelby County Assistant District Attorney said. “His testimony was a crucial, critical part of this case and getting justice for holly.”
Still, prosecutors said Monday that they don’t know with 100 percent certainty the motive for Holly’s murder.
And Autry’s deal is tough to process for Decatur County Sheriff Keith Byrd, who said the horrific crime changed his county forever.
“Our goal was to get justice for Holly. We have done that. I don’t necessarily agree with the kind of justice we got her. But I’m not the judge. I’m just a player in this ballgame,” Byrd said.
The Bobo family did not want to make a public statement Monday, other than to speak through prosecutors.
Autry’s attorneys said he will be released once he can be processed out of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution (RMSI) in Nashville. Autry’s defense team declined to say what he will be doing once he is released from prison or where he will be living, citing their client’s safety.