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Holly Bobo trial: Zach Adams found guilty on all charges

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-23 11:05:27-04

Six years of anguish, heartbreak and uncertainty all came to a dramatic conclusion in Hardin County, Tenn., Friday afternoon, as 12 jurors convicted Zachary Rye Adams of first-degree murder.

He now faces the death penalty for his role in the killing and kidnapping of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo.

For years it was unclear if this trial, would ever occur, much less be sent to a jury. Legal fumbles and delays often left those in Holly's family wondering when they would be able to close the most painful chapter in their lives.

Holly was kidnapped from her home on April 13, 2011, the last person to see her alive was her brother Clint, who told investigators a man wearing camouflage had lead his sister into the woods. Investigators would later find Holly's blood in the garage next to her black Ford Mustang, exhaustive searches of the wooded areas surrounding her home turned up Holly's phone and lunch box, but the 20-year-old's body wouldn't be found until years later.

A motive for the crime, which shattered the sense of security in the small town of Parsons, still remains a mystery. But state prosecutors were able to convict Zach Adams based largely on the testimony of other criminals and co-defendant Jason Autry.

It was through Autry's testimony that jurors heard the gruesome details of the final moments of Holly's life.

Autry, who is currently in prison, said that after Zach kidnapped Holly, the pair took her body to the banks of the Tennessee River beneath the Interstate 40 bridge in Decatur County. Wrapped in a farm blanket, Holly's body was unloaded from the back of a pickup truck. The plan, Autry says, was to gut her body so she wouldn't float. Suddenly though her foot moved, a murmur indicated that Holly was still alive. 

"With one shot that echoed under that bridge, those two men did what they chose to do, and the secret of what happened to Holly Bobo started. It bonded together these two men who had just done this terrible, terrible work," prosecutor Paul Hagerman said during his closing arguments.

It took six men and six women 11 days to convict Zach Adams. The 33-year-old had little reaction has the jury foreman announced his fate to a courtroom packed with people, including Holly's parents. Thousands more were watching at home, as this trial and case have garnered national publicity since the moment Holly vanished.

"It's doubtful Holly would've been famous, it's more likely she would've finished nursing school, she would've married Drew (her boyfriend) and lived close to her parents the remainder of her life," prosecutor Jennifer Nichols said as she addressed jurors one final time.

"You wouldn't have known her, but she's entitled to this. Justice for her requires you be here," she implored of them.

Adams was found guilty on all counts. 

COUNT 1 - GUILTY
First-Degree Murder - During Perpetration of Kidnapping
COUNT 2 - GUILTY
Especially Aggravated Kidnapping - Using a Deadly Weapon
COUNT 3 - GUILTY
Especially Aggravated Kidnapping - Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury
COUNT 4 - GUILTY
First-Degree Murder - During Perpetration of Rape
COUNT 5 - GUILTY
Aggravated Rape - Use of Force While Armed with a Weapon
COUNT 6 - GUILTY
Aggravated Rape - Resulting in Bodily Injury
COUNT 7 - GUILTY
Aggravated Rape - Use of Force While Aided or Abetted by Others
COUNT 8 - GUILTY
First-Degree Murder - Premeditated

The jury which decided his fate will now also decide if he should face the death penalty or life in prison for killing Bobo. 

"The death penalty changes everything," his attorney Jennifer Thompson told jurors as she tried one final time to convince jurors Zach didn't commit the crime.

"Zachary Rye Adams is 100 percent innocent of the charges he's facing," she added. 

Jurors didn't agree.

The most expensive and most exhaustive case in state history also appeared to be one of the most mismanaged. Even prosecutors said that TBI agents failed to investigate the most obvious of leads in the case early on, not checking out the alibis of Zach Adams, Dylan Adams, Jason Autry or Shayne Austin. Three of the men were later charged with murder. Shayne Austin committed suicide after the state withdrew an immunity agreement.

Holly was missing for more than three years until her remains were accidentally discovered off County Corner Road in Decatur County by a ginseng hunter out searching the woods in September 2014. That discovery broke the case wide open.

"Only two men in the world knew that, the two men who did it," Paul Hagerman said. 

For Holly's family, the verdict offered some semblance of closure. Although they recognized that no verdict will ever bring their daughter home.