SAVANNAH, Tenn. — Lawyers delivered shocking opening statements and the first witnesses testified in the Holly Bobo murder trial on Monday.
Holly Bobo's mother, Karen Bobo, collapsed sobbing on the ground during testimony, leading the judge to clear media out of the courtroom about 2:30 p.m.
"I'm feeling sick," Karen Bobo said before collapsing.
The trial took a break until she returned to the stand a little after 3 p.m. The judge said Bobo had a medical issue and paramedics had cleared her as being OK.
It comes after a trying day in court in which the Prosecutor Paul Hagerman described an alleged encounter between Zachary Adams, the defendant accused of kidnapping, drugging, raping and then murdering the 20-year-old nursing student, and his friend Jason Autry.
Hagerman portrayed Adams as a man who lived in the "dark, dark world" of methamphetamine and morphine the day he abducted Bobo in April 2011. Adams allegedly wrapped her in a blanket and took her in his truck to a friend’s home, before calling Autry to help him get rid of the body. Presuming her to be dead, Adams reportedly said he was going to gut Bobo so she wouldn't float to the surface once they tossed her body into the Tennessee River.
As they were transporting her, Bobo gasped, Hagerman said, and that's when Adams allegedly murdered her in cold blood.
Adams then allegedly got rid of her remains and described her to others in vulgar terms. He then bragged that the world would not find out what happened to Bobo, Hagerman said.
The disappearance led to a massive search of the fields, farms and woods of West Tennessee. Her case received national attention, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it was the most exhaustive and expensive investigation the agency ever conducted.
Her remains were found 3 ½ years later near her home in Decatur County, located about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Nashville.
Even more recently, Hagerman said authorities found a gun Adams used to kill Bobo.
“He took her, he raped her, he killed her, he discarded her, he covered it up, he almost got away with it,” he said. “But he didn’t.”
However, Adams' attorney Jennifer Thompson said her client was innocent, saying he didn't even know the woman and had never laid eyes on her.
She said Adams was charged after investigators interviewed several other men and they needed someone to blame. Authorities found no hair, fingerprints or DNA belonging to Bobo in a search of Adams’ home before he was charged in 2014, Thompson said.
"The state needs something and it's at the point that they then decide they're going to buy and pay for testimony from somebody," the attorney said.
The statement was made in direct regards to Autry, another suspect in Bobo's disappearance, who she said "sold his death penalty to the state of Tennessee in hopes he'd be released from jail soon."
Witnesses take the stand
In court on Monday, Bobo's father, Dana Bobo, was the first witness to take the stand, describing the agonizing day Holly Bobo went missing from her home in Parsons.
He testified he was at work when he received a call telling him to come home. Holly had been taken.
By the time he arrived home, dozens of people were in his yard worried about his little girl. After talking with his family, he went inside the house, grabbed a gun and walked around for what "felt like hours."
For the next two months, he searched for Holly every waking moment; never losing hope until TBI agents finally knocked on his door in September 2014 with the tragic news two men had found her body not far away from her home in Decatur County.
Another witness testified he heard arguing and screaming around 8 a.m. the morning Holly went missing. He claimed it sounded like the nursing student was yelling, "Stop! I said stop!"
He then drove to the Bobos' driveway and cut his engine to listen for any other sounds before heading to work.
Several hours later, he called his mom to check on the family.
According to police records, the same neighbor told authorities the declaration could have been playful— a fact the defense quickly pointed out along with the fact the neighbor himself had been questioned by authorities in the case on several occasions.
Testifying later Monday, Bobo’s brother Clint said he thought his sister was walking with her boyfriend into woods behind her house on the day she went missing.
Clint Bobo said he heard voices coming from the carport behind the family’s home. He said he thought his sister was having a discussion with her boyfriend, Drew Scott, and they sounded upset.
When he looked outside, Clint Bobo said he saw his sister walking with a man wearing camouflage hunting gear into the tree-line. He said he thought it was Scott at first, but later realized the man looked heavier and stockier than his sister’s boyfriend, he said.
Clint Bobo said he went outside and saw blood in the carport.
Bobo said he spoke with his mother, Karen, on the phone. He said she told him the person was not Scott and ordered her son to “get a gun and shoot him.”
Bobo said he did not do that because he was confused about what was happening.
Clint Bobo said he met both Adams and Autry after his sister disappeared, as his family investigated tips received from local residents. He said the person who walked into the woods with his sister didn’t look like Adams or Autry.
Still to come
WREG has learned at least 50 witnesses are expected to take the stand including Autry and three other individuals who were granted immunity by the prosecution.
Autry is a suspect in Bobo's death and faces murder and rape charges as well.
Court documents showed federal authorities have promised immunity to Autry, but state prosecutors have only promised to possibly reduce his charges pending his cooperation in his co-defendant Zach Adams' trial.
State prosecutors asked for immunity for three other men, including Victor Dinsmore, Michael Alexander and Jason Kilzer. Federal authorities also asked for immunity for Dinsmore.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation background check revealed Dinsmore, Alexander and Kilzer all have extensive criminal backgrounds. Dinsmore's rap sheet included charges of fraud and being a fugitive of the law; Alexander's included charges of burglary, evading arrest and drug possession; and Kilzer's included charges of aggravated burglary, theft of property and assault.
New court filings also shed light on the reason the trial was delayed: a new gun discovered in an undisclosed location in May.
Documents showed the weapon was an Arminius model HW5 32-caliber S&W Long Revolver. The defense wrote the state would introduce it in trial as the murder weapon.
Adams faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.