Prosecutors say woman was alive after being drugged, raped, presumed dead
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The trial for a man accused of murdering Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo opened Monday with dark allegations about what happened on April 13, 2011.
During opening statements, prosecutor Paul Hagerman says Zach Adams allegedly made statements to others he drugged Bobo after kidnapping her then raped her and killed her.
Perhaps the biggest bombshell in the courtroom came when Hagerman says Jason Autry met with Adams and others after Adams contacted him asking for help. When Autry arrived, Hagerman says Adams had Bobo's body wrapped in a blanket. Hagerman says Autry took control of the situation at that point, allegedly stating they would "gut" the body and place it in the water so the body would not float back to the top.
However, Hagerman says when they went to move Bobo's body, she was still alive, adding there was "still time for grace."
Instead, Hagerman says Adams retrieved a gun and was stopped by Autry not to prevent the shooting, but rather to take a look and make sure nobody was around to hear the gunshot. Prosecutors contend once the coast was clear, Adams fired the fatal shot into Bobo's head.
Hagerman says Autry told investigators what took place during interviews, placing him as an assumed key witness for prosecutors in the trial for Zach Adams. In addition, Hegerman told the jury they have statements Adams told others, admitting to and gloating about the murder.
Defense attorneys immediately refuted the allegations against Adams, saying he did not kidnap, rape, or kill Bobo.
Attorney Jennifer Thompson says law enforcement in Decatur County and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) responded quickly to Bobo's disappearance and were flooded by tips from the community, prompting multiple investigations into possible suspects.
Thompson says there was so much information flooding investigators, it was like trying to "drink water from a fire hydrant." Thompson cited several people were investigated, including Bobo's brother Clint.
Given the course of the investigation, Thompson contends over two years after the crime, investigators never had anyone to "pin" the crime on. Thompson says it was the most-expensive investigation in the state of Tennessee yet police had a "goose egg" when it came to a suspect.
Thompson says amid pressure for answers from the public, the cost of the investigation, and being an election year for the District Attorney's Office, there was intense pressure for someone to be arrested.
Thomson claims the state instead decided to pressure Dylan Adams, brother to Zach, arresting him and conducting multiple interrogations as a way to get information on Autry, Adams and others. Thompson says Dylan Adams -who she contends has a low IQ and learning disabilities- gave investigators confessions which were not corroborated.
Thompson told the jury despite searching the home of Zach Adams, seizing vehicles, and computers, there was no physical evidence found that supported Dylan's information or linking Zach Adams to Holly Bobo.
"It was at this point they decided they would buy and pay for somebody's testimony," Thompson says. With Autry, Adams, and others charged with Bobo's murder, Thompson says the state made a deal with Autry to lay out a confession which supported the state's claims.
Thompson says not only does Autry's confession have inaccuracies, physical evidence such as the tracking of their cell phone data will show the men were not with each other and independent of where Bobo's phone was tracked. Thompson closed her statement by saying Autry sold his death penalty sentence to the state in hopes to avoid the sentence and serve less time in jail.