tv 2020 ABC October 21, 2017 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
holly, i love you so much. please, please try to get home to us. i mean, there were days that i literally begged to die, because i just wanted holly back home. >> reporter: tonight on "20/20," justice -- and a verdict this week. right here on the banks of the tennessee river, the true crime southern mystery that stunned the nation. >> we have a break to report. >> reporter: a promising young nursing student and daughter, holly bobo -- led from her home by a mystery man in camouflage. >> holly screamed, "stop! stop! stop it!" >> reporter: the most extensive search in tennessee history. her cousin, country singer whitney duncan. >> this is not real. it can't be real. that doesn't happen back in my hometown. >> reporter: right here tonight, those parents who never gave up, now speaking out, only to "20/20".
>> i would lay on her bed just trying to feel her again. feel her hand in my hand. >> reporter: their six year journey into the dark underbelly they never knew was just down the block. >> i know my boys. they're drug addicts. they're not murderers. >> reporter: everyone was a suspect. even holly's own brother. >> have you told everything you know about that morning? the trial that made them relive it all. >> boom, boom, boom. he said, i need you to help me bury this body. >> reporter: how did you listen to that testimony? testimony so excruciating. that mother collapsed in the courtroom at one point. good evening. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> i'm david muir. it's a family that really could be any family. your family, a small beautiful town, that mother, a grade school teacher. >> confronted with the shock of finding out someone she had taught in 4th grade had gone on to become her daughter's killer but even with a jury's
conviction and sentencing just days ago, some people wonder did they get the right man? >> reporter: a patchwork of dense woods and hardscrabble farms sewn to the west bank of the tennessee river. this is decatur county, tennessee -- atvs, horses and hunting. it's where karen and dana bobo live. in a home they built with their own hands, with their 25-year-old son, clint, and his younger sister, 20-year-old holly. >> holly was pretty much a mother's girl. we shared a bond that she would sometimes look at me and say that it's scary, because we could finish each other's sentences. >> reporter: whitney duncan, a country music singer, is holly's cousin. >> she had a beautiful voice, so i would kinda help coach her a little bit on that. ♪ there will be peace in the
valley for me ♪ >> reporter: and it was a special time for holly, she had recently received a promise ring, from her boyfriend, drew scott. >> and i remember her, you know, showing me and just being so excited about the future, and she really was planning their life together. >> reporter: the last day of her life was a wednesday. a perfectly ordinary april morning in 2011. too early for trouble. the sun climbing the trees, chasing off the mist. the bobo family is rising too. holly, a nursing student is up by 4:30 that morning, studying for her test that day. karen packs holly's lunch and then she's off to teach second grade at scotts hill elementary. did you say good-bye before you left? >> she was sitting at the kitchen table. studying and i kissed her goodbye and told her i loved her. just like every other morning. >> reporter: holly gathers her lunch and homework and walks out
to get into her mustang in the carport. at about 7:40, holly's older bedroom, the house is quiet. until the scream. >> around 7:40 that morning, a neighbor was getting ready to go to work, and was outside and he heard a scream from next door. >> holly screamin', "stop, stop, stop it!" >> reporter: her brother clint doesn't hear holly screaming, he wakes up to the family dog barking. >> so i decided to get up. see what he was barking at. >> reporter: clint hears voices in the carport behind the house. >> i listened just briefly, and i could tell it was a male, and a female voice. i never was really able to tell what they were saying. >> reporter: you couldn't tell if they were shouting, if they were arguing? >> well, as i listened a little bit closer, i could tell that, that was holly's voice. so i knew it was holly, so in my mind, the male's voice, i knew to be drew, you know, who was her boyfriend.
>> reporter: through the blinds, he spies the strangest thing, two figures in the shadows of the garage. >> holly was knelt down in the garage, and a man in camouflage who i identified as drew were knelt down in the garage facing each other. >> reporter: unsure of what's going on, and wary of walking into the middle of a quarrel between holly and her boyfriend, clint calls his mother. >> and he asked me, "was holly not going to school today? was she going home with drew?" and i says, "that's not drew." >> reporter: karen bobo knows holly's boyfriend is elsewhere that morning, turkey hunting. >> so i instantly knew something was wrong. >> i could see them just briefly. >> reporter: where were they? >> they were walking towards the woods and there's a trail, leads you to a logging road. >> reporter: was your sister walking unaided? on her own? >> yeah. she was walking on her own. >> reporter: so he wasn't dragging her? >> oh, no, no. >> so when clint told you on the phone, "holly and drew just walked off into the woods." >> i said, "that's not drew. get a gun and shoot him." and clint said, "you want me to shoot drew?" and i think that's when i hung up and called 911. >> 911 what's your emergency?
>> i am in a full-fledged panic by then. >> somebody has my daughter, please get there now. >> reporter: police rush to the house on swan johnson road, followed closely by dana and karen bobo. >> i ran through the woods calling her name. >> reporter: in the garage there's evidence of a struggle, a puddle of blood later confirmed to be holly's. holly's nursing school classmate suzanne pratt knew something was wrong when holly didn't show up for their test. >> we waited for just a little while, because she wasn't there and no one knew where she was. >> reporter: then the instructor broke the news. she announced that something terrible had happened. >> reporter: soon, half the county, people, police and search dogs overrun the bobo property.
>> get ready to go out into the woods, okay? >> you had neighbors, friends, family, all of decatur county, just kind of poured into this family's front yard, and they're out in the woods looking for her. >> you know, cops everywhere, helicopters flying. it was already crazy. >> reporter: holly's dad tells reporters he suspects the man who took holly had to be familiar with the area, familiar with her habits. >> it might've been somebody close. somebody that kinda knew our routine, when i left, when she left, and when my daughter left to go to school. if you see anything that's not right tell me. >> reporter: tennessee, the volunteer state, lives up to its name. day after day friends, neighbors and strangers continue searching for holly. >> reporter: the urgent search for a young woman gone missing. >> [ crying ] holly, i love you so much. please, please try to get home to us. >> we've been searching all day and pretty well into the night. >> reporter: police ask at&t to track holly's cell phone.
what could you tell from holly's cell phone that morning? >> essentially, for an hour and a half, her cell phone traveled all through decatur county. >> reporter: the beating electric pulse of holly's phone travels north to a wooded area near interstate 40, and then turns back south by another route. >> at any point does the cell phone stop moving? >> around 8:30 to 9:00 that morning, her cell phone stopped moving for about -- about 20 to 30 minutes. >> reporter: and what do you think was happening at that point? >> i -- i don't wanna think about it. >> reporter: for several days the house is a crime scene. eventually the bobo's are allowed to return home. >> i remember the, you know, the first thing i wanted to do was go to her room and open her closet and smell her. >> reporter: karen bobo longs for the touch her daughter's hand. >> when holly was at home, you know, she'd be asleep. her hand would be kind of folded
like this, and i would just slip my hand in her hand, for just a few seconds. and i remember doing that after, trying to feel her. thinking if i could just feel her hand in my hand. >> reporter: investigators follow every lead. disheartening evidence of holly begins turning up -- homework, a notebook, that lunch her mother made, and holly's phone, all found scattered along backcountry roads in the weeks after the abduction. >> i wondered if she maybe had a chance to throw out some things, or if it was just some kind of taunting. >> reporter: the strange abduction, the apparent signs of familiarity with the victim, and the trail of evidence, lead police to think the suspect was close. perhaps even inside the house! >> there were a lot of people that felt clint was lying. >> reporter: holly's own
brother, what does he know? have you told everything you know about that morning? >> reporter: stay with us. i love you, couch. you give us comfort. and we give you bare feet, backsweat, and gordo's... everything. i love you, but sometimes you stink. soft surfaces trap odors. febreze fabric refresher cleans them away for good. because the things you love the most can stink. and plug in febreze to keep your whole room fresh for up to 45 days. breathe happy with febreze.
>> reporter: clint bobo was the last person to see his sister holly alive, as she was led into the woods by a man. >> i knew that he was wearing camouflage and he had what appeared to be a black object in his hand. >> you also described his height, and weight, and hair color. >> yeah. i estimated him to be about 5'10" and about 200 pounds. >> what color hair? >> i really don't remember focusing on his hair. >> but you described it to police as being dark. >> yeah. >> reporter: the pressure is enormous, people are puzzled by clint bobo's account of the abduction. at the time, tennessee bureau of investigation's terry dicus is heading up the case. >> there were a lot of people that felt very strongly clint was lying, and that clint telling the truth would be the secret to solvin' this case. >> reporter: did they tell you they thought your story was strange? >> it was just question, after question, after question. now, of course, they did check me. they said for scratches and so i took my shirt off.
>> reporter: that was that morning she disappeared? >> yeah. yeah, that was that morning. >> reporter: suspicion was that quickly turned toward you? you were there. >> i was there, yeah. i was there and holly was not there. >> reporter: police search clint's computer, monitor his phone calls and polygraph him, twice. have you told everything you know about that morning? >> yes. >> that your sister disappeared? >> yes. i have told everything. >> reporter: what has it been like to lose one child and have the other child be the focus of so much suspicion? >> i felt like we had lost one child and have, was having to -- to fight for the other one. but i knew the truth would always come out in the end. >> reporter: eventually, clint is cleared and investigators turn their attention to another man from the county. >> terry britt was a registered sex offender who lived fairly close to the bobo home. he lived, also, very, very close to where some of her property was found. >> the first time i interviewed
him, i was like, "oh my god. this guy did it. this guy did it." >> reporter: you thought that the first time you interviewed him? >> yeah. i thought that before i interviewed him, actually. >> according to terry dicus, terry britt did have, for lack of a better term, a type. he liked pretty blonde, blue eyed girls. uh, and holly fit that type. >> reporter: the dark underbelly of decatur county, the criminal underworld of drug addicts and sex offenders is a foreign country to karen bobo. >> we didn't live in that culture. we lived in our own little circle -- >> so you weren't even aware of it? >> that that world existed? absolutely not. we were just hardworking family. i thought that's how everybody lived. >> reporter: tell me about terry britt. >> he is a -- horrible, horrible human being. he spent the majority of his life in prison for kidnappin' and rape. and he absolutely perfectly matches the description that clint bobo provided of holly's abductor.
his entire alibi was a lie, from start to finish -- complete and total fabrication. >> reporter: his alibi was that he was buying a bathtub with his wife at this salvage yard. the problem is dicus says the store has no record of that sale. dicus does not believe it's a coincidence that britt's home is in northern decatur county, in the general direction holly's cell phone was moving the day she was taken. you executed a search warrant on terry britt's house, and that involved bringing in cadaver dogs. did they find anything? >> the cadaver dogs alerted to two of britt's vehicles and several tools around his house. somebody has been decomposing in or around these vehicles, in or around these tools. >> reporter: so you seized the vehicles and the tools and tested them for any d.n.a.? >> correct. >> reporter: no d.n.a.
>> correct. >> reporter: undeterred, police wiretap britt's phone and put a bug in his house and listen to his conversations. >> the wiretap did not result in anything. we didn't have any type of admission on that. and i think a lot of people looked at that as exoneration. >> reporter: but not dicus. and he says largely because of this -- a recording of a chilling conversation he had with britt. britt seems to actually fantasize about what holly's kidnapper might have been thinking. >> she's young, pretty, perfect, somewhat, body. okay, like a toy. he can't wait to get her to where he's going to take her to, because he's wanting that body. but here comes reality, now i've got a body, what am i gonna do with it? if you keep it, you gotta feed it, you gotta hide it, and if you kill it, what are you gonna do with it? >> the hairs must have stood up on the back of your neck. >> the way i took it is he's relivin' the story.
and when he gets to the point where she's no longer alive, he changes from talkin' about her as a person, talk about her as an it. >> reporter: but britt continues to deny he was involved, and investigators cannot seem to find compelling evidence to prove otherwise. many in the tbi feel it's time to turn to other suspects. not dicus, though, he just can't let go. >> were you asked to leave the investigation? >> i was taken off the investigation, yes. >> because you felt passionately that they had -- a suspect that you should be pursuing. >> yeah. >> and nobody else agreed? >> well, not -- i wouldn't -- no -- not -- nobody else agreed, but the right people didn't agree, is more accurate. >> reporter: dicus was reassigned, and then leaves the tbi altogether. the agency says dicus was benched because he developed tunnel vision and had lost his ability to be objective about the facts of the case. the investigation meanwhile, seems to go nowhere. holly's family is increasingly frustrated.
>> until your child is found or you know what happened to them, i don't think anyone could ever do enough in a parent's eyes. >> reporter: but in the depths of the bobo's despair, suddenly a stunning turn. >> we have a major break to report. a suspect is in custody this morning. >> reporter: police say they've found their man -- make that men. and then they find something in the woods. >> i once again got that same, "it's her" feeling. >> reporter: stay with us. my friend susie cracks me up. but one laugh, and hello sensitive bladder. ring a bell? then you have to try always discreet. i didn't think protection this thin could work. but the super absorbent core turns liquid to gel. for incredible protection... ...that's surprisingly thin. so it's out of sight... ...and out of mind.
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>> reporter: ever since that april morning when holly bobo vanished into the tennessee woods, the tips poured in. the more the investigation foundered, the wilder the speculation. psychic visions and sightings. holly becomes a phantom haunting every dark corner of decatur county. citizens report, she's being held captive in a barn, no, tied up in a warehouse thrown down a well.
>> one woman claimed to have been there the night holly was taken. another fella claimed to have her in the basement. >> reporter: police are tipped off early in the investigation to four small time criminals, brothers zach and dylan adams and cousins, jason autry and shayne austin. >> they were essentially best friends. they did everything together. >> reporter: zach adams is one of those people in town allegedly shooting off his mouth, taking credit for holly's disappearance. >> zach would tell people, "you're gonna end up in a hole just like holly." they would make comments everywhere that normal people would not make. >> reporter: so do they come to the top of your suspect list, somebody to check out? >> they were brought up early and often. they were brought up by people that know that they're just bad people, into drugs. >> reporter: reputations that draw the attention of the bobos, who by now have begun doing their own police work.
they track them down one by one, and ask for a chat. what did you say to these people? >> i asked them did they know anything about our daughter's abduction? of course, they all denied it. >> reporter: was any part of you afraid? >> no. i guess i would have fought goliath. you know? i just had no fear. i was trying to find my daughter. >> every single moment of her life since holly went missing has been devoted to that. she never gave up hope. >> reporter: when you went to interview these two brothers and their friend, jason autry, how did they strike you? >> they appeared believable to me. >> reporter: did they have alibis during the time of the crime? >> alibis that checked out. >> reporter: but then dicus is taken off the case, and investigators return to that foursome. unlike britt who dicus thought acted alone, four suspects provide an opportunity to break the case. detectives just need one to turn on the other three. police begin a series of at
least six interrogation sessions over eight months, with the weakest link dylan adams who quickly admits being with holly bobo the day she was taken. >> describe, what was she was doin'? what did she look like? what was she wearing? >> she had long pants on. pink shirt. >> okay. >> reporter: of the four suspects, dylan is the youngest. and his mother cindy adams says he has intellectual disabilities. he even has trouble telling time. >> and if you lie to me one time, i'm getting up and walking out. and we're done. >> reporter: as you watch that, as you watch that videotape of your son, what do you see? >> i just see someone bein' bullied into sayin' somethin' they didn't do. >> you've destroyed evidence. you withheld information. that ain't how this works! was holly bobo kidnapped? >> yes, sir. >> was she raped? >> yes, sir. >> was she raped by you? >> yes, sir. >> reporter: after numerous sessions with halting one word answers the frustrated agents seem to realize dylan will not make a good witness. >> dylan doesn't give them any
of the mysteries about who took holly, where she went you know when she walked into the woods, where she was killed, where her body had been. >> reporter: even so, detectives cobble together the following story from dylan. he tells them his brother zach, jason autry and shayne austin kidnapped holly. dylan says all four of them sexually assaulted her at zach's house. as for who killed holly, in one version he says it was zach, another, it was autry. >> i think that he was just tryin' to get through it. and he really didn't care what he said. dylan is a people pleaser. i know my boys. they're drug addicts. they're not murderers. >> reporter: but grand jury says that's exactly what they are. zack adams and jason autry are indicted for murder. >> decatur county grand jury handed down indictment of especially aggravated kidnapping
and first degree felony murder. >> reporter: recognizing dylan's weakness as a witness, authorities turn to shayne austin. he's not charged. instead they offer him immunity in exchange for testimony. but he says he can't answer the most important question. where's holly? >> we still didn't have her back so for me, even then, i think there was a part of me that still didn't believe it. that all changed on september 7, 2014, a sunday when two ginseng hunters find partial human remains including a skull at the foot of a cell phone tower in this wooded area off interstate 40. the very area where holly's phone had been pinging. and just six miles from zach adams's house. >> confirmed they found bobo's remains. >> reporter: where were you when you got word? >> we were at the mall in jackson, tennessee.
and i will never forget that. i once again got that same, it's her feeling. just had that same feeling, they're gonna come and tell us that's her. >> reporter: her intuition proven right. the skull is holly's. and there's a bullet hole in it. they have a body. but they lose their witness. before he can testify, shayne austin hangs himself in a florida hotel room. authorities desperately need a break. there is no physical evidence linking the adams brothers or jason autry to the crime. even so, prosecutors charge all of them, including dylan, announcing they'll seek the death penalty. all three plead not guilty. and this guy actually believes them, the former agent in charge of the early years of the investigation, terry dicus. why don't you think these young men are guilty?
>> i don't think they're capable of doin' arithmetic, much less this. >> reporter: but prosecutors are confident they can make it all add up. still ahead, the trial that rocked decatur county, a best friend's betrayal and chilling story about what happened to holly. >> boom. boom. boom. >> reporter: stay with us. nd. he thinks it smells fine, but his mom smells this... luckily for all your hard-to-wash fabrics... ...there's febreze fabric refresher. febreze doesn't just mask, it eliminates odors you've... ...gone noseblind to. and try febreze unstopables for fabric. with up to twice the fresh scent power, you'll want to try it... ...again and again and maybe just one more time. indulge in irresistible freshness. febreze unstopables. breathe happy.
♪ i pray and i cry and i ask god why ♪ so i really wanted to show some clips of holly, from when she was a baby and just of her growing up through the years. but i know she's watching down and she sees everything. ♪ better place >> god bless the united states, the state of tennessee, the county and this honorable court. >> reporter: earlier this month, zach adams' death penalty murder trial gets underway in an ornate, chandeliered courtroom in hardin county, tennessee. zach adams, standing alone as the face of evil. his husky appearance strikingly different from the gaunt man seen in preliminary hearings two years earlier. prosecutor paul hagerman delivers his opening statement in a voice so quiet, many strain to hear. >> he took her.
he raped her. he killed her. and he almost got away with it. >> members of the jury -- >> reporter: jennifer thompson is zach adams' defense attorney. >> he did not, as a matter of fact, know holly bobo, and had never even laid eyes on her. >> reporter: when holly's mother, a school teacher, testifies, a surreal moment. she knows her daughter's alleged killer. she taught zach adams in the 4th grade. she's keeps her composure until she's asked to identify some of holly's belongings. >> is this your car key? >> yes, ma'am. >> let's take a minute. let the jury file out, please. whoa. get a nurse. >> reporter: now prosecutors introduce a recent discovery, what they consider the murder weapon, a pistol allegedly once owned by shayne austin.
it had been recovered just before the trial was set to begin. >> finding the gun came out of nowhere. nobody could ever find a gun. >> reporter: if it's the smoking gun it hasn't smoked in a while, the pistol was found under water in a drainage ditch. one expert testifies based on the size of bullet hole it could be the murder weapon. but no expert proves it actually is. and dylan adams is also nowhere to be seen, not on the witness stand, not in that videotaped interrogation. that's because the state no longer needs him, because prosecutors have found a real rock star witness, none other than jason autry himself. >> be seated. state your first and last name and spell it for the court please. >> jason autry. >> they had no physical evidence other than a skull, and a gun. so jason autry is their best hope at a conviction. >> when jason autry came along, it's what the state really needed to try to get a conviction of somebody, and i
think the state really needed to convict somebody. >> reporter: for years, jason autry has been proclaiming his innocence to anyone who'd listen. >> i want to say one thing, i'm innocent of these charges. right hand before god, i'm innocent sir. >> reporter: but this time with his right hand before god, it's a different story. >> right there is the location where she was killed. >> reporter: he says, the morning she was taken, zack adams asked him to get rid of a dead body in the back of his pickup truck. >> he said, i need you to help me bury this body. >> reporter: he says according to zach adams the body in the blanket was holly bobo. autry says he and zach drove the body down back country roads to a spot on the tennessee river under the interstate 40 bridge. cell phone records show they were both in that area that morning and this graffiti
on the bridge suggests zach had been there before. he says they laid the body in the blanket on the ground. >> at that time i see the foot move, a movement and a sound of distress that sounded like pin come out of her voice, come out of her, come from the blanket. i told him, i said, "this [ bleep ] [ bleep ] is still alive." >> reporter: he says he kept a lookout and zach fetched a pistol from the truck. >> at that time boom, the gun went off. it sounded like boom, boom, boom underneath that bridge. it was just one shot, but it echoed underneath that bridge all the way down that damn river bottom. birds went everywhere, just all up from under that bridge. it was just dead silence for just a second. >> reporter: he says they load holly's dead body still in the quilt back onto the truck. >> shut the tailgate and tear out of there like wild indians. >> jason autry is a star witness
like no other. just details his entire day on april 13th like it was yesterday. >> reporter: autry claims that was the extent of his involvement. he says he eventually learned from zach and dylan adams that they and shayne austin had kidnapped holly earlier that morning and sexually assaulted her in an old barn. after shooting her under the bridge, he says zach disposed of her body. did jason autry's story on the stand sound plausible to you? >> it did. >> every part of it? >> it did, and it matched. it matched what the prosecutors had also. >> reporter: zack adams' defense attorney says it's a pack of lies. >> i think jason autry's gonna be rewarded for his story. i think he's gonna be released. i think he'll be released fairly soon. >> reporter: she points out phone records show autry takes time out from allegedly participating in this murder to chat on the phone with his girlfriend, and his mother.
>> in the middle of all this, you were able to take a telephone call from your mother shirley king that morning, at 9:42, weren't you? >> if your records reflect that, that's true. >> reporter: but prosecutors point to their own phone records, bringing on a tbi expert who tells the jury that autry's story of meeting up with zach adams before traveling to the tennessee river is backed up by the movements of their cellphones. but the prosecution isn't finished. they call to the witness stand a rogues gallery of walking, talking, testifying mugshots. cons and ex-cons who say they heard zach adams bragging about what he had done to holly bobo. >> he said, "i'll kill you like i did holly bobo." >> i couldn't have picked a prettier -- he made the comment that, "it sure was fun." >> reporter: the prosecution's case leaves some nagging questions unanswered. which of the suspects took holly from her home? why was she targeted?
and, what happened to her before she was wrapped in the quilt in the back of the pickup? that's what leads the defense, and the original investigator to say the wrong man is on trial. and now terry britt, the original suspect, is about to take the stand. stay with us. i was wondering if an electric toothbrush really cleans better than a manual. and my hygienist says it does but they're not all the same. who knew? i had no idea. so she said, look for one that's shaped like a dental tool with a round brush head. go pro with oral-b. oral-b's rounded brush head surrounds each tooth to gently remove more plaque. and unlike sonicare, oral-b is the only electric toothbrush brand accepted by the american dental association for its effectiveness and safety. my mouth feels so clean. i'll only use an oral-b. oral-b. brush like a pro. i love you, droolius caesar, but sometimes you stink. febreze car vent clip cleans away odors for up to 30 days.
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zach adams' phone may have been in the same place as holly bobo's at times on the day of the crime, at other times that day, zach and holly's phones were far apart. >> at 8:17, holly's phone is over in this area. and at 8:16, zach adams' phone is over here, and they're miles apart, okay? >> reporter: but it's not just about creating reasonable doubt -- thompson is shooting for reasonable certainty that the real killer was someone else. for assistance she turns to terry dicus -- the former lead investigator removed from the case because of unwavering belief that his old nemesis terry britt is the predator who murdered holly. >> in your opinion, what is the strongest evidence implicating terry britt? >> he's the kidnap and rapist in decatur county. he's the one that would be willin' to do this. >> reporter: aside from his notorious rap sheet, you'll recall that britt had a wafer-thin alibi, and the cadaver dogs alerted on his car.
>> who has human decomposition on two of their cars and four of the tools in their shed? who has that? zach didn't have that. shayne austin didn't have that. >> reporter: dicus makes his case to the jury. >> terry britt has black hair. he weighs 200 pounds and he's six foot tall. so i got onto him because, number one -- he is the exact size of what our witness say the abductor looked like. he's capable of kidnapping her. >> reporter: on cross examination he is forced to admit he knows nothing of developments in the case in the years since he left the tbi. >> but you can't tell us anything about the three and four years after that. >> you're right. i don't know what y'all have done since then. >> reporter: and now the showstopper. here's terry britt himself brought in straight from the penitentiary to testify in court. >> would you tell the jury what you're currently incarcerated for? >> kidnap, attempted rape. >> reporter: britt has not
forgotten terry dicus, the agent who hounded him for years. >> do you know whether dicus is still a tbi agent? >> no, he's lost his job. i wish he'd get on food stamps. >> i object your honor. >> he can say -- >> he almost destroyed my life. >> reporter: but defense attorney jennifer thompson hopes to convince the jury terry britt should be on trial here, not her client, zach adams. >> when the police showed up at your house to talk with you, the first thing you said to them was, "i didn't rape nobody." didn't you? >> right. >> that's before they even said anything to you about what was going on, isn't it? >> that's right. >> okay. because you had already heard that there was a woman missing. >> that's right. >> reporter: it's role reversal in the courtroom. the prosecutor -- practically holding her nose -- has to shoot down this defense ploy by proving britt is innocent, of this particular crime.
>> after the searching of your house, searching of your cars, taking your computers, bugging your phone, bugging your house. were you charged with anything to do with holly bobo's case? >> no. no, ma'am. >> did you kidnap, rape, murder holly bobo? >> no, i didn't. i didn't know the girl. never seen her in my life that i know of. >> so, after all of that, after all that, you still have to be here today, still answering questions about something that happened in 2011. >> just like them cameras back there, they're gonna plaster me, lies on me from here to china, again. >> did you have any doubt at all that they had charged the right people? >> no. >> none? >> none. >> you never, ever thought there's a chance it could be terry britt? >> no. >> why did i even have to hear about terry brit? >> reporter: prosecutors remind the jury no physical evidence
connected terry britt to the crime. >> not a drop of blood, not a hair, not anything at all that connected him to holly bobo. >> reporter: of course there's no blood or hair connecting zach adams to the crime either. and in her closing, thompson does her best to torpedo the prosecution's case. >> there's no motive for zach to have done this. the government wants you to believe that zach is guilty on their suspicion and rumor. in this country we do not convict based on mere suspicion and rumor. terry britt is most likely the real abductor and the killer of holly bobo. >> reporter: coming up -- will the bobos get the verdict they want? or will holly's murder remain a mystery? >> tell me about the moment you heard the verdict. >> i think it took a while for that to sink in.
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>> reporter: 11 hours over two days, the jury deliberates the fate of holly bobo's alleged killer, zach adams. a week ago tonight they come back into court. >> has the jury reached a verdict in this case? >> reporter: and tell the judge they have found zach adams guilty on all counts. >> you checked guilty of first degree felony murder. >> reporter: the bobo family agrees with prosecutors to allow adams to avoid the death sentence. a mercy they believe he did not show their daughter. >> reporter: why did you make that decision? >> so that we can hopefully start doing a little bit of healing. >> reporter: life in prison without the possibility of parole? >> yes. plus 50 years. >> plus 50 years. >> reporter: is that enough punishment for you? >> there'll never be enough punishment for him.
>> he don't deserve to be breathing air that he's breathing today. >> reporter: after sentencing, the woman who taught zach adams in the fourth grade, insists that he pay attention once again. >> can you back up just a little bit so i can, so he can look at me? and i know that she begged for her life, because my daughter loved and enjoyed life. but you chose to take that from her. >> reporter: karen bobo has a memento of holly that she keeps close. it's so pretty it's her daughter's promise ring, recovered in the woods with her remains. >> reporter: the last moments of the trial belong not to the judge or the jury, or zach adams, they belong to holly bobo. >> she was raised in a christian home with lots of love and laughter.
there will be none of that anymore for all of us, because there is a piece of us that will always be missing. >> reporter: as she wrote in her song, whitney duncan says their family knows that holly is in a better place. ♪ cuts like a knife when i hear your name ♪ >> i think of her every day. hearing somebody talk about it or coming home and seeing the signs and seeing her picture. it makes me sad, but i don't want to be sad. i want to think about the happy times that i had with her. ♪ ♪ in a better place >> the fate of the two other defendants, is still up in the air whether they take some sort of plea deal or go on trial themselves we will be following. >> in the meantime, tonight's program is just one of thousands that "20/20" has done in its
four decades. you have been there for so many. our 40th anniversary start this season and to celebrate elizabeth and i got a chance to light up the legendary empire state building in new york city. >> and the top is aglow in "20/20's" signature colors, blue and white. quite a sight to see on the city's skyline. thanks for watching, i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. from all of us here at "20/20" and abc news, thanks for watching. have a good night and a great weekend.