A man convicted of killing Holly Bobo avoided the death penalty Saturday after accepting a sentence that will keep him behind bars for the rest of his life– plus 50 years.
Zachary Adams, 33, was found guilty Friday in the kidnapping, rape and murder of the 20-year-old Tennessee nursing student in 2011. Her skeletal remains were found three years later.
Judge C. Creed McGinley told a jury Saturday that Adams made a deal with prosecutors just minutes ahead of his sentencing hearing.
Under the agreement, Adams received a term of life without parole for Bobo’s killing. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 25 years on the kidnapping and rape counts.
McGinley told the jury that the deal with Adams was reached with “some reluctance.”
The judge asked Adams if he voluntarily agreed to the deal that may have saved his life.
“Yes sir,” Adams responded in a soft voice.
Bobo’s mother Karen addressed the jury, telling the panel that her daughter was a loving person who “appreciated the small things in life.”
“She was the sweetest soul I ever knew,” Karen Bobo said.
Bobo disappeared from her home in rural Parsons on April 13, 2011.
On Sept. 7, 2014, two men in the woods came across the skeletal remains of what would be later identified as the nursing student. Her body was discovered about 400 yards into the woods in northern Decatur County, approximately 20 miles away from her parents’ home.
Bobo’s disappearance led to a massive search of the farms, fields and barns of western Tennessee. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has said that the Bobo investigation was the most exhaustive and expensive in the agency’s history.
But investigators found no DNA evidence connecting Bobo to Adams. Instead, they relied on testimony from friends and jail inmates who said Adams spoke of harming Bobo.
The trial in Savannah, Tenn., lasted 11 days.
Two other men, Jason Autry and Adams’ brother, John Dylan Adams, also face charges of kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo.
Autry testified against Adams, telling jurors that Adams told him that he, his brother and their friend Shayne Austin had raped Bobo. Autry also said that he served as a lookout as Adams shot Bobo near a river on the day she was reported missing.
Autry was on a list of witnesses who were offered immunity in the case. He said he testified because he wanted leniency.
Autry’s lawyer has told the judge that a trial does not need to be set for Autry, indicating he has reached a deal with prosecutors. A trial date has not been set for John Dylan Adams.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.