Holly Bobo disappeared into the woods behind her family's home, 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, and launched a desperate search. But with few leads and even fewer clues, authorities weren’t able to find Bobo. Three and a half years later, a pair of hunters came across her bones in the woods near her home.
Meanwhile, several men had been accused of kidnapping and killing her.
The Stranger In The Bobo’s Backyard
On the morning of April 13, 2011, Bobo’s mother Karen got a distressing call at work. One of the Bobos’ neighbors had heard someone screaming.
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 home to check in on her children. Clint Bobo answered 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 Bobo had awoken to the sound of dogs barking just a few minutes before his mother’s call. After she hung up, he wandered into the kitchen and peered out the window. There, he saw his sister Holly walking into the woods with a man dressed in camouflage.
But Clint wasn’t alarmed. He 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 turkey hunting — but not at the Bobos’ house. He’d called Holly and Karen that morning to double-check that he had permission to hunt on Karen’s mother’s property.
When Karen heard about the stranger in their backyard, she panicked. “That’s not Drew,” she told her son. “Get a gun and shoot him.”
Clint, still confused as to the identity of the man and unwilling to shoot someone for no reason, did not immediately grab his gun. He tried calling both Scott and his sister, but neither answered their phones.
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,” Clint recalled. “The thing is there was no turkey.”
A few minutes later, the first patrol car arrived at the Bobo residence. The search for Holly Bobo had begun. But it would take authorities years to name a suspect.
The Desperate Search For Holly Bobo
Hundreds of people 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.
Their early efforts turned up several disturbing clues. On April 14, 2011, searchers found Holly Bobo’s lunchbox, embroidered with an H. They found a wadded-up piece of 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 heading to school — but weren’t sure what had happened next.
With few leads, investigators turned next to a known sex offender, Terry Britt. Britt, whom locals referred to as “Chester the Molester,” lived near the Bobos’ home. But although 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.
The police had considered Zach and Dylan early in the investigation, alongside two cousins, Shayne Austin and Jason Autry. Holly Bobo’s underwear was even discovered near Austin’s trailer. However, investigators had stuck to the belief that “sexual predators work alone,” and ruled them out as suspects.
Now, years after Holly Bobo had vanished, they started to wonder if Zach and Dylan Adams could have had anything to do with her disappearance. Zach was known to the police. He’d gotten in trouble for meth. And, a few years back, he’d even shot his own mother in the knee during an argument.
So, when 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 his brother Zach’s house on April 13, 2011 — the day Holly Bobo disappeared — and seen something disturbing.
The Arrest Of Holly Bobo’s Killers
In his confession, 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.” Dylan said that Zach was “wearing camouflage shorts” and said he told him “he had raped Bobo and videotaped it.”
From there, the case started picking up steam. On March 5, 2014, the Tenessee 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 Autry on April 29th.
The search for Zach Adam’s alleged video next led police to two other suspects, Jeff and Mark Pearcy. Jeff’s former roommate, a woman named Sandra King, claimed to have seen the part of the video.
“I seen a woman that was tied up that was crying,” King later testified. “She was blonde… It looked like Holly Bobo.”
Meanwhile, from jail, Zach Adams told a fellow inmate to make sure that his brother kept his mouth shut — or Zach 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.” At that point, no one knew how Holly Bobo had died.
But Dylan had provided the police with plenty of information. In his confession, he’d also incriminated Shayne Austin. Austin agreed to lead the police to Bobo’s body in exchange for immunity — but he led them to an empty patch of land. He later killed himself after prosecutors tried to revoke his immunity.
At last, investigators had the men who had kidnapped and killed Holly Bobo. But it would still be a few more months before they found her remains.
The Murderers Brought To Justice
On September 8, 2014, Holly Bobo was finally found. A pair of hunters looking for ginseng found a bucket in the woods 20 miles outside of Darden. Upon further analysis, investigators determined that it contained the remains of Holly Bobo’s skull, teeth, ribs, and a shoulder blade. The skull had evidence of a gunshot wound in its left cheek.
The trial of Zach Adams began a few years later, in September 2017. There, Jason Autry turned on his friend. He insisted that he had not harmed Bobo. Testifying against Adams, 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.
They’d driven together to the Tennessee River where Adams said he would “gut” Bobo so that her body would sink. But once they arrived, Bobo began to move and moan. Adams then 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.”
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 mental disability to coerce a confession.
Dylan Adams “had a learnin’ problem” and a “below average” IQ, his grandfather said. His mother claimed that neither of her sons had the focus or intelligence to plot a kidnapping.
But 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 thirty-five years for aggravated kidnapping. The charges against the Pearcy brothers were later dropped.
Many questions still remain about Holly Bobo’s murder. But with the convictions of Zach and Dylan Adams, the Bobo family finally had some closure.
After reading about the mysterious murder of Holly Bobo, check out the mysterious disappearance of Amy Lynn Bradley, who vanished from a cruise ship during a family vacation. Then, read about Amelia Earhart, whose unexplained disappearance is one of the most famous in history.