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Tennessee Appellate Court Affirms Convictions and Life Sentence in Holly Bobo Murder Case

Zach Adams

Zach Adams

A Tennessee appellate court has affirmed the convictions of the man sentenced to life imprisonment plus 50 years for kidnapping, raping and murdering Holly Bobo.

The three-judge panel rejected Zachary Adams’s claims that there was insufficient evidence for a jury to convict him and that his constitutional rights were violated.

Bobo, a 20-year-old nursing student at the Tennessee Technology Center, went missing on the morning of April 13, 2011, and it would take three years of what had been called the most intense investigation in the state’s history for anyone to discover her remains.

In 2014, a ginseng hunter saw an upside down bucket in the woods — and discovered a human skull beneath it, later traced to the victim. Investigators also found a few rib bones. Forensic examination of the skull showed a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, consistent with a close range of fire. Adams and his brother John Dylan Adams were later charged with Bobo’s kidnapping, rape and murder.

As Law&Crime previously reported, their friend Jason AutryShayne Austin, and Jeff and Mark Pearcy were also charged, but Austin later died by suicide. Autry would later become the state’s star witness, and authorities dropped the cases against the Pearcy defendants. John Dylan Adams entered into a so-called Alford plea, in which he did not admit the criminal conduct but accepted the sufficiency of proof of his conviction.

Holly Bobo

Holly Bobo

Zachary Adams maintained his innocence, fought the claims at trial, and following his convictions, entered into a deal with the government averting the death penalty.

In an 81-page ruling issued on Friday, lead author Judge Robert Montgomery reprised much of the evidence linking Adams to the crime, including the killer’s statements to his ex-girlfriend Rebecca Earp following Bobo’s disappearance.

“Additionally, the defendant’s inculpatory statements in the aftermath of the offenses were significant,” the ruling states. “Mere days after the victim’s disappearance, Ms. Earp saw Mr. Austin smirk and laugh about a news report related to the victim, and she heard the Defendant say that law enforcement would ‘never be able to find her.’ Further, when Ms. Earp ended her relationship with the Defendant in July 2011, the Defendant threatened to ‘tie [her] up just like he did [the victim]’ and said ‘nobody would never see [Ms. Earp] again.’ Afterward, she and the defendant continued to socialize, although their romantic relationship had ended.”

The ruling also says that Zachary Adams asked a fellow inmate to pass on a threatening message to his brother.

“The defendant wanted his brother to know that if his brother ‘don’t keep his mouth shut,’ the defendant would ‘put him in a hole beside her,'” according to the ruling.

A different inmate reported overhearing Zachary Adams seek to convey to his brother that he should ‘keep his f—— mouth shut'” or he would ‘plant him next to that b—-,'” as quoted in the ruling. [Redaction in original]

Judges Timothy L. Easter and Jill Bartee Ayers joined the ruling.

Adams’s attorney Jennifer Lynn Thompson declined to comment.

Read the ruling here:

[Images via Law&Crime Network]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."