Holly Bobo: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Image Credit: Zina Bee/Find a Grave

In 2011, 20-year-old Holly Bobo mysteriously vanished from her Tennessee house, resulting in an extensive search for her across the county led by the police as well as her loved ones. Several years later, right before her remains were found, a bunch of suspects were already linked to the case. The episode titled ‘Justice for Holly Bobo’ of ABC’s ’20/20′ covers the entire case while providing the intricate details of the aftermath that followed through exclusive interviews with Holly’s family and friends, as well as officials linked to the homicide.

Holly Bobo Was Last Seen Disappearing Into the Woods With a Strange Man

Karen Bobo, a teacher at Scotts Hill Elementary, and her husband, Dana Bobo, welcomed their second child into the world on October 12, 1990, and named her Holly Lynn Bobo. Raised in a Christian home full of love alongside her older brother, Clint, Holly was extremely close to her mother. Described as a shy and sweet lady, she was a nursing student studying at the University of Tennessee at Martin Parsons Center in Parsons. Living with her parents and brother in a Darden home at the time of her disappearance, she had been dating a guy named Drew Scott, who had gifted her a promise ring. Having planned their future together, the couple had a lot to look forward to.

Image Credit: Zina Bee/Find a Grave

But on April 13, 2011, around 4:30 am, Holly woke up for her important test, and after gathering her lunch and homework, she made her way to her Mustang in the carport. At about 7:40 am, one of her neighbors heard her loud scream and immediately informed his mother, who told Karen in turn. Meanwhile, Clint woke up to the barking of the family dogs, and when he looked for Holly, he saw her outside, walking into the woods with a man dressed in camouflage. Next, he fetched a handgun, but when he went outside, he discovered a puddle of blood in the garage, pointing to a struggle.

Soon, the authorities arrived at the Bobo house and launched a search for Holly immediately. As they delved deeper, they found that her cell phone had traveled all across Decatur County that morning. However, between 8:30 and 9 am, it stopped moving for about 20-30 minutes. The police then conducted an extensive search of the area and were joined by many of her loved ones and locals. The search led to the discovery of many belongings of Holly scattered along the Backcountry roads of the county, including her cell phone, lunchbox, a notebook, a card from school, the SIM card, and a receipt with her name on it.

More than three years after her disappearance, on September 7, 2014, a couple of ginseng hunters discovered partial human remains, including a skull with a bullet hole, at the foot of a cell phone tower in a wooded area off Interstate 40. Upon examining the remains, the reports suggested that they belonged to Holly. Apart from her skull, her teeth, one of her shoulder blades, and several ribs were also recovered from the site. The gunshot wound to her head was reportedly the cause of the death of the 20-year-old nursing student. After this eerie discovery, the case was officially declared a homicide.

Four Men Were Involved in the Murder of Holly Bobo

Since Clint Bobo, Holly Bobo’s older brother, was the last person to see her alive, the police deemed him as a person of interest as well as a potential suspect. Being fully cooperative, he allowed the authorities to search his computer and even agreed to be polygraphed twice. When no incriminating evidence surfaced against him, they focused on another man from the county — Terry Britt. The registered sex offender lived fairly close to the Bobo residence and had spent the majority of his life in prison for kidnapping and rape. When the police questioned him and asked him about his whereabouts on the morning of April 13, 2011, he claimed that he was busy buying a bathtub with his wife at a salvage yard, but the store had no record of the sale.

Image Credit: ABC 24

Given his false alibi and the fact that he matched the witness’ description, a search warrant was issued for his house. During the search, the cadaver dogs pointed to a couple of his trucks and a few tools in the house. They even wire-tapped his phone and installed a bug in his house to eavesdrop on his private conversations. However, the police could not find any evidence linking him to the Holly Bobo case. Over the following eight months, they took about six interrogation sessions with four new suspects — two brothers, Zach and Dylan Adams, and cousins, Jason Autry and Shayne Austin.

During the interrogation, Dylan admitted that he was with Holly on the fateful day and further claimed that the other three suspects kidnapped her before all four of them sexually assaulted her at his brother’s house. In one version, he claimed that his brother Zach killed her, and in another version, he told them that Jason had committed the murder. On the other hand, all four of them had alibis that checked out. Around March 2014, the detectives arrested Zach, Dylan, and Jason and charged them with aggravated kidnapping, first-degree murder, and rape. All of them pleaded not guilty as they faced the death penalty. A couple of other men, Jeffrey and Mark Pearcy, were also arrested for being accessories and tampering with evidence. Eventually, charges against them were dropped.

The detectives offered Shayne Austin immunity in exchange for his testimony in court, but in February 2015, he died by suicide in a Bartow, Florida, hotel room. As the investigation intensified, a gun belonging to Shayne was also found in a drainage ditch. After Jason accepted a plea deal wherein he was supposed to testify against Zach in exchange for a reduced prison sentence, he testified that Zach asked for his help to get rid of Holly’s body on April 13, 2011. Jason went on to claim that Holly was alive when they were about to bury her, and when Zach got to know that, he fetched a gun and shot her once, but it echoed a couple of times as they were under a bridge.

So, on September 23, 2017, Zach got convicted of all charges, including aggravated kidnapping, first-degree murder, and rape. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, in addition to two consecutive terms of 25 years. His brother, Dylan, on the other hand, accepted an Alford plea and received 15 years imprisonment for facilitation of first-degree murder and 35 years imprisonment for especially aggravated kidnapping on January 18, 2018. As far as Jason is concerned, he received a reduced sentence of eight years and was released from prison on September 16, 2020.

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