On April 13, 2011, Holly Bobo disappeared into the woods behind her family's home in Tennessee, leaving investigators with few clues or leads.
Holly Bobo was a regular 20-year-old, living at home while studying nursing at the University of Tennessee. But everything changed on April 13, 2011. That morning, she vanished from her own backyard.
Bobo’s disappearance rattled her community of Darden, Tennessee. Her loved ones soon launched a desperate search. But with few leads and even fewer clues, authorities weren’t able to find Bobo. About three years later, a pair of hunters came across her bones in the woods near her home.
As several men were blamed for Bobo’s murder, investigators struggled to piece together what had happened to her before she died. From a horrific rape that was apparently videotaped to one man’s desire to “gut” her body, it soon became clear that she did not die quickly or quietly.
The Stranger In Holly Bobo’s Backyard
On the morning of April 13, 2011, Holly’s mother Karen got a distressing call at work. One of her neighbors had heard someone screaming near her home.
Karen was alarmed. Everything had seemed normal when she’d left the house about 20 minutes earlier. Her daughter, 20-year-old Holly Bobo, had been up since before dawn to study for a nursing exam. Her 25-year-old son Clint Bobo was still asleep. And her husband had already left for work.
Frantic, Karen called the house to check in on her children. Clint picked up the phone and said that his sister’s car was still in the driveway.
“At that point, I knew something was wrong,” Karen Bobo later recalled. “Holly should have already gone to school. I hung up and dialed 911.”
Clint had awoken to the sound of dogs barking just a few minutes before his mother’s call. After Karen hung up to call the police, Clint wandered to the kitchen and peered out the window — taking another look outside. Then, he saw his sister Holly with a mysterious man in camouflage.
But at first, Clint wasn’t alarmed to see the large, dark-haired stranger. He initially thought the man was Holly’s boyfriend, Drew Scott.
“I expected Drew to be dressed in camouflage,” Clint Bobo later said. “Because Drew and I had talked the night before and he told me he was going turkey hunting that morning.”
Drew Scott was indeed hunting for turkeys — but not at the Bobos’ house. He’d actually called Holly and Karen that morning to double-check that he had permission to hunt on Karen’s mother’s property.
Meanwhile, Karen was having trouble getting through to the right authorities, so she called the house again in frustration. But when Clint told her about seeing “Drew” outside, she panicked — because she knew the real Drew was elsewhere. “That’s not Drew,” she said. “Get a gun and shoot him.”
Clint, still confused about the identity of the man and unwilling to shoot someone for no reason, did not immediately grab his gun. Instead, he tried calling Scott and his sister, but neither answered their phones. At some point, he saw Holly and the man disappear into the woods behind the home.
Only then did he get his loaded pistol and go outside. There, he saw a puddle of blood near Holly Bobo’s car.
Clint Bobo couldn’t quite wrap his mind around what was happening. “I thought, ‘[Drew’s] killed a turkey up here on this trail behind the house and brought it to the house to show Holly before she goes to school,'” he recalled. “The thing is there was no turkey.”
A few minutes later, the first patrol car arrived at the Bobo residence. And with that, the search for Holly Bobo had begun.
The Desperate Search For Holly Bobo
Hundreds of concerned citizens volunteered to search for Holly Bobo after she disappeared. They set out on foot, on horseback, and even by ATV in hopes of bringing her home. Meanwhile, Bobo’s cousin Whitney Duncan — a country singer — used her fame to bring more publicity to the case.
Their early efforts turned up several disturbing clues. On April 14, 2011, searchers found Holly Bobo’s lunchbox, embroidered with an H. Next, they found a wadded-up paper with Holly’s name — perhaps an old homework assignment. And one searcher found a pair of women’s underwear.
“I immediately stopped. It was a garment that was pink in color. It was a pair of pink panties,” he later testified.
But after that, the trail went ice cold. Investigators suspected that Holly Bobo had been abducted while she was on her way to school — but they had difficulty figuring out what had happened next.
With few leads, investigators focused on Terry Britt, a local man known to be a sex offender. Britt, whom locals referred to as “Chester the Molester,” lived near the Bobos’ home. But while Britt was interviewed and his home was searched, investigators never brought any charges against him.
Instead, by early 2014, the police turned their attention to a pair of brothers: Zach and Dylan Adams.
Apparently, the police had briefly considered Zach and Dylan early on in the investigation. They had also been suspicious of a pair of cousins, Shayne Austin and Jason Autry. It was later revealed that Bobo’s underwear had been found near Austin’s trailer. However, investigators had stuck to their belief that “sexual predators work alone,” and ruled them out as suspects.
But years after Holly Bobo had vanished, they wondered if Zach and Dylan Adams could have had something to do with her disappearance after all. By then, Zach was already known to the police for his meth habit. And at one point, he’d even shot his own mother in the knee during a fight.
So, when Zach’s brother Dylan Adams was arrested on an unrelated weapons charge, police began to ask him about Holly Bobo.
And Dylan began to talk. According to an affidavit, Dylan told police that he’d gone to Zach’s house on April 13, 2011 — the day Holly Bobo disappeared. And that day, he saw something disturbing.
The Arrest Of Holly Bobo’s Killers
Dylan Adams told police that he had “observed Holly Lynn Bobo sitting in a green chair in the living room wearing a pink T-shirt, with Jason Wayne Autry standing just a few feet away.” According to Dylan, Zach was “wearing camouflage shorts” and said that he had “raped Bobo and videotaped it.”
From there, the case picked up steam. On March 5, 2014, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations announced that Zach Adams had been indicted on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping and felony first-degree murder of Bobo. The same charges were filed against Jason Autry on April 29th.
The search for Zach Adams’ video led police to two other suspects, brothers Jeff and Mark Pearcy. Jeff’s former roommate, a woman named Sandra King, claimed to have seen part of Zach’s video.
“I seen a woman that was tied up that was crying,” King later testified. “She was blonde… It looked like Holly Bobo.”
From jail, Zach Adams told a fellow inmate to make sure that his brother kept his mouth shut — or he would “put [Dylan] in a hole beside her.”
Damningly, Adams also added, “I’m not worried because they got no body and they got no gun.” While most had assumed that Holly Bobo was dead by that point, they did not know that she had been shot.
But Dylan had provided the police with plenty of information. In his confession, he’d also incriminated Shayne Austin. After the cops questioned Austin, he agreed to lead them to Bobo’s body in exchange for immunity. But in the end, he led them to an empty patch of land. Austin later killed himself after prosecutors tried to revoke his immunity.
Still, investigators believed they had the main suspects who killed Holly Bobo. But it would be a few more months before they found her remains.
The Long Fight For Justice
On September 18, 2014, a pair of hunters discovered a bucket full of human remains in the woods 20 miles outside of Darden. The partial skeleton included a skull with a gunshot wound, teeth, multiple ribs, and a shoulder blade. It was soon determined that the remains belonged to Holly Bobo.
A few years later in 2017, the trial of Zach Adams began. There, Jason Autry turned on his friend. Testifying against Adams as a key witness, Autry said that he’d gone to Austin’s house to buy drugs. While there, he’d seen Bobo’s body wrapped up in a blanket and agreed to help Zach get rid of it.
According to Autry, he and Zach drove together to the Tennessee River, where Zach said that he wanted to “gut” Bobo so that her body would sink. But once they arrived at the river, Bobo began to move and moan — since she was apparently still alive. Adams then fatally shot her.
“It sounded like, boom, boom, boom, underneath that bridge. It was just one shot but it echoed,” Autry testified. “Birds went everywhere, all up under that bridge. Then just dead silence for just a second.”
Autry insisted that he had not personally harmed Bobo.
Throughout the trial, the defense accused the prosecution of deliberately delaying the case and failing to turn over evidence. The attorneys for the Adams brothers also suggested that the prosecution had exploited Dylan’s intellectual disability to coerce a confession.
Dylan Adams “had a learnin’ problem” and a “below average” IQ, according to his grandfather. Meanwhile, his mother claimed that neither of her sons had the focus or intelligence to plot a kidnapping and murder.
Despite the criticism of the prosecution, the Adams brothers were convicted. In September of 2017, Zach Adams was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years for first-degree murder, kidnapping, and rape.
The following year, Dylan Adams entered an Alford plea, receiving 15 years for murder and 35 years for aggravated kidnapping. The charges against the Pearcy brothers were eventually dropped.
As for Autry, he pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit murder and facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping. Accepting a plea deal for a reduced sentence, Autry was released from prison in September 2020. (Just months later, he would be arrested again for drug and gun charges.)
Many questions still remain about the death of Holly Bobo. At least six men have been implicated in the murder, but only three were prosecuted. And most of the arrests were made after the confession of one man — who was known to have an intellectual disability. It’s also somewhat unclear as to why he was targeted for questioning in the first place.
Some wonder whether there were more people involved in the crime. And others question whether the men who pleaded guilty to lesser charges were more heavily involved than they claimed to be. Autry’s honesty in particular has been called into question. Yet others wonder whether the initial suspect — Terry Britt — was the one who actually committed the crime.
Sadly, we may never know the complete story of what happened.
After reading about the murder of Holly Bobo, take a look at the mysterious disappearance of Amy Lynn Bradley, who vanished from a cruise ship on a family vacation. Then, learn about Amelia Earhart and her unexplained death.