Tennessee convict to be released after guilty plea in 2011 murder

Dana Bobo, father of Holly Bobo, testifies in the trial of Zach Adams as a photo of Holly is displayed in Savannah, Tennessee. Jason Autry pleaded guilty Monday to taking part in the killing more than nine years ago, but he is expected to be released soon as part of a deal with prosecutors. (AP file photo)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Nursing student Holly Bobo was found 3 years after she was raped, shot to death

A man serving time for helping cover up the slaying of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo in 2011 has pleaded guilty and will be released from prison in the next few days as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Jason Autry was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison, but Hardin County Judge C. Creed McGinley granted credit for time served after the convicted felon admitted to solicitation to commit murder and facilitation of aggravated kidnapping, The Associated Press reported.

“His testimony was some of the most credible, persuasive testimony I’ve ever heard given in a courtroom,” McGinley said.

Bobo’s parents were in the courtroom Monday, and prosecutor Paul Hagerman said they supported the plea deal because Autry’s testimony resolved many unknowns, bringing closure to the case.

Bobo was 20 when she vanished from their home in rural Parsons, Tennessee, in April 2011, prompting a massive search of woods, fields and farms in west Tennessee. Her remains were found more than three years later, in September 2014, by two ginseng hunters in woods not far from her home, about 100 miles southwest of Nashville.

Jason Autry identifies Zach Adams during his testimony on day four of the Holly Bobo murder trial in 2017.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

After being identified in the investigation, Autry cooperated with authorities. During the 2017 trial, he testified against his longtime friend Zach Adams — who was convicted of shooting Bobo to death under a bridge after raping her with two other men, according to reports.

Adams was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years. His brother, John Dylan Adams, reached a deal with prosecutors and was sent away for 35 years. A third suspect, Autry’s cousin Shayne Austin, was found dead in an apparent suicide in Florida in February 2015.

Autry, who admits being addicted to methamphetamine, said he was looking for drugs when he called Adams on the day of Bobo’s disappearance in April 2011. But Adams called back, saying he actually needed Autry’s help.

Autry next went to Austin’s trailer, where Adams had driven with Bobo wrapped in a blanket in the back of his pickup truck, Autry said, according to the AP.

Adams and Autry drove Bobo’s body to a spot underneath a bridge, where they planned to throw her into the river.

After picking her up, the pair realized the young woman was still alive.

Adams then retrieved a pistol from his truck, Autry testified, admitting that he stood guard to make sure no witnesses were around, and then he signaled the all clear to Adams.

A single gunshot reverberated through the air.

“It sounded like, boom, boom, boom, underneath that bridge. It was just one shot, but it echoed,” Autry said. “Birds went everywhere, all up under that bridge. Then just dead silence for just a second.”

Fearing capture, he and Adams loaded Bobo’s body back into the truck and drove away, Autry said.

— Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.