HARDIN COUNTY, TN (WMC) - The trial of a man accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing a young nursing student six years ago got off to a shocking start when prosecutors said Holly Bobo was still alive when Zach Adams prepared to dump her body.
Dramatic testimony followed those opening statements, culminating in Holly's mother, Karen, collapsing during her testimony. Court would go to recess for nearly thirty minutes, but when it resumed Karen was back on the stand.
After several delays, Adams became the first suspect to stand trial in the murder of Holly Bobo. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Bobo was a 20-year-old nursing student from Decatur County who disappeared in April of 2011. Ginseng hunters found her remains in a wooded area three years later.
Adams spoke up in court Monday to say he was not guilty of the charges levied against him.
Prosecutor Paul Hagerman opened up the trial by accusing Adams of reveling in his crime. Hagerman said Adams bragged by saying, "I couldn't have picked a prettier b----. It was fun. The world may never know what happened to Holly Bobo."
Hagerman also said Adams covered up the murder. "He took her. He raped her. He discarded her. He covered it up, and he almost got away with it."
The prosecution said Bobo was wrapped in a blanket in the back of Adams' truck when he went to Jason Autry for help. The two then drove off and dumped her body near water.
Hagerman said Bobo was still alive when her body was dumped. She then made a sound, and Adams got out a gun and shot her in the head.
Watch the prosecution's full opening statements here:
The defense, however, argued that the state never had any solid evidence that Adams could be the killer.
"Zach Adams never raped Holly Bobo. He never killed her. He never met her. He never even laid eyes on her," defense attorney Jennifer Thompson said.
Thompson said the prosecution's case was based on Holly Bobo being a good person. She said while this is a case of a bad thing happening to a good person, that doesn't mean Adams is guilty of causing the bad thing.
Thompson said officers developed a large number of people as suspects in the case. She said police interviewed every person in Decatur County.
She said the case was brought to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which then received thousands of tips.
Thompson called the investigation the most expensive and exhaustive case in the state's history. She then blamed Adams' arrest on pressure that existed following the 2014 election.
Thompson said the evidence provided by Adams' brother Dylan, who has a low IQ, did not match the evidence by the state.
Thompson concluded by saying cell phone records prove Adams didn't kill Bobo. She said the records show Adams' phone by the lake when Holly was kidnapped.
Watch the defense's opening statements here:
Dana Bobo, Holly's father, was the first person called to the witness stand.
Dana Bobo said he did not see his daughter when he got up on the morning of April 13, 2011, but he did see a light on in her room.
Later that day when he was at work, he got a call from a neighbor, saying Holly had been taken.
"That was the worst feeling you could possibly feel, that something bad happened to one of your kids." Dana said.
He said he was told no other information but that Holly had been taken.
Dana said he then raced home to find 50-100 people in the yard.
When he got home, Dana said he talked to three people, then grabbed a loaded pistol from his home and started searching for his daughter.
Bobo said FBI, TBI, and U.S. Marshals all showed up to the home to search.
He eventually became upset that the search had been mostly contained to their 23-acre home, so he told investigators to go search.
"If y'all think one of us [family] done it, 10 of y'all stay here and the rest of you go do something," he recalled telling an FBI agent.
Bobo says he kept up hope and searched "everywhere" for Holly, up until three years later when TBI agents told him Holly's remains had been found.
Drew Scott, Holly's boyfriend, was the second to take the stand.
Scott said his relationship was serious; he even gave her a promise ring.
Scott said he last saw Holly the night before she was taken, and last received a text message from her at 8 a.m. the day she was taken.
Scott said his foreman told him about the kidnapping while he was at work.
The defense cross examined Scott, but only with one question. The defense asked Scott what his phone number was in 2011; Scott did not remember.
After a lunch recess, prosecutors called James Barnes to the stand. He lived next to the Bobos and heard a scream the day Holly was kidnapped.
Barnes described his daily routine of packing his truck and leaving for work. He then explained that on April 13, he heard a woman's scream from in the direction of the Bobo home.
He said at first he didn't think the scream was overtly harrowing, but as it continued, Barnes grew more concerned about the scream. He said the screams even started to startle his dogs.
Once his truck was packed, he changed his normal route to work so he could drive by the Bobo house. Barnes pulled into the Bobo driveway and shut off his engine so he could listen. He said he didn't hear or see anything more while he was at the Bobo house.
Adam's defense team cross examined Barnes. The attorney retold much of Barnes' testimony, and asked him if TBI considered him a suspect in the case.
Barnes confirmed that TBI investigated him for a long time, even for a time considering him a suspect and working to get him to confess to killing Holly. Barnes was later formally dismissed as a suspect.
After Barnes' testimony ended, prosecutors called Karen Bobo, Holly's mother to the stand.
Karen described the confusion leading up to the realization that something was wrong concerning her daughter. She talked about calls from her son Clint who told her that he saw Holly going into the woods with her boyfriend.
Prosecutors played the 911 call Karen made when she realized something was wrong.
Prosecutors then showed pictures of the Bobo home with blood spots that belonged to Holly. Prosecutors also pulled out items found during the investigation that belonged to Holly. Karen identified all of the items, including panties, a lunchbox, a purse, a camera, and a study sheet dated the day Holly was abducted.
Karen became emotional during the testimony. The judge called for a recess to give Karen a break. As the court began to file out, Karen fell and started saying she couldn't breathe.
Defense asked for mistrial after Karen Bobo passed out; defense team suggested Karen passing out was a tactic to get sympathy from the jury. Judge denied the defense's motion for a mistrial, saying it was a "serious medical event" that caused Karen to collapse.
When Karen continued her testimony, she revealed that, while conducting her own investigation, she met with all those accused of killing her daughter, including Zachary Adams.
After Karen Bobo finished, Clint Bobo, Holly's brother, took the stand.
Clint gave his accounts of what happened the day Holly Bobo was taken; he was inside their house when it happened.
Clint said he woke up the day of Holly's disappearance to his dog barking. He then heard a woman's voice, he later identified as Holly's, and an unknown male voice. He initially thought the male's voice was Holly's boyfriend, Drew, but later determined it belonged to someone else.
He caught a glimpse of someone in camouflage walking with Holly, who was in a pink shirt, away from their house and towards the woods.
Clint called Karen to see if Holly was supposed to be out of school, and she told him to grab a gun and shoot, if someone was taking Holly.
He grabbed a revolver and his phone and went outside, at which time he noticed some blood on the floor of the carport, and assumed they had been turkey hunting, but he was still confused.
A neighbor pulled up and said her husband heard a scream about 15 minutes earlier. Clint finally called 911 and deputies start arriving. He told them the sequence of events, and more neighbors showed up and asked what happened.
Clint admits the man in camouflage he saw was not the same stature of Zach Adams or Jason Autry. He said the man he saw was similar in stature to Shayne Austin. Austin was arrested in charged in Bobo's murder, but he was found hanged in a hotel room in Florida in 2015.
John Babb, a former assistant surgeon general, took the stand after Clint Bobo.
Babb owned more than 100 acres on Swan Johnson Road in Parsons, Tennessee, near where the Bobos lived.
He reported seeing a white pickup truck "speeding" down a road near where he was fishing the day Holly was taken
Tony Weber, a former deputy with the Decatur County Sheriff's office for 15 years, took the stand after Babb.
Weber responded to the 911 call at the Bobo's house the day Holly was taken. He filled out paperwork with AT&T on the scene to attempt to track Holly's cellphone--something police can do in emergency situations.
The defense team began cross examining Weber, but when the team asked for a 15 minute break to organize details, the judge decided to end the testimony for the day.
The trial will resume Tuesday morning with Weber still on the stand.