September 23, 2017 / 1:33 AM / a year ago

Man found guilty of 2011 murder of Tennessee nursing student

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - The first of three men arrested and facing trial in the 2011 kidnapping, rape and murder of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo was found guilty on all counts on Friday in Savannah, Tennessee.

It took jurors about 10 hours over two days of deliberations to find Zachary Adams guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape. Circuit Court Judge Charles Creed McGinley moved the trial from Decatur County to neighboring Hardin County to secure an unbiased jury, local media reported.

The sentencing phase will begin on Saturday, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.

“We hope today’s verdict brings a small sense of closure to those who love Holly Bobo and stand prepared to assist prosecutors in the trials of the additional defendants in this case,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said in a statement.

The search for Bobo and her abductors was one of the most exhaustive in terms of staff hours and expenses in state history, Gwyn has said.

Lawyers for Adams said there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Bobo, a cousin of country music singer Whitney Duncan, was last seen in the driveway of her rural Tennessee home in April 2011 when she was 20.

Adams’ brother Dylan Adams and their friend Jason Autry had pleaded not guilty in their 2015 arraignments. No dates have been set for their trials.

Autry testified against Zachary Adams, saying he was responsible for the murder. Autry, currently in custody, admitted to playing a part in the crime.

Autry testified Adams took Bobo’s body, wrapped in a blanket, in a pickup truck to a river and fired a shot into Bobo to make sure she was dead. Autry did not know what happened to the body.

A human skull, identified by dental records as that of Bobo, was discovered in September 2014 by two men searching for ginseng in the woods in Decatur County.

Lawyers for Adams said there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Diane Craft

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