SAVANNAH, Tenn. - After years of delays, legal fumbles and countless investigative hours a jury was chosen on Saturday for the murder trial of Zach Adams who's accused of killing nursing student Holly Bobo more than six years ago.
The jury, comprised of eight women and seven men from Hardin County, signaled an incredible move forward in a case which has largely sat stagnant for the last few years. The 15 person jury will ultimately be brought down to 12 after three alternates have been chosen. They will be charged with determining what role, if any, Adams played in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Holly Bobo.
Many in this southern community wondered if this trial would ever happen, but now with a jury chosen, it finally appears to be a reality.
If convicted Adams, age 32, could face the death penalty.
It's been three years since he was initially charged with murder.
More than 80 potential jurors filed into this near century old courthouse in Hardin County on Saturday, where hanging chandeliers, wood paneling, and a white clock tower are a throw back to the Civil War-era roots that brought this community along the Tennessee River into existence.
Fifteen people will be seated on the jury, and Zach Adam's fate will ultimately rest in the hands of 12 of them, as three will be chosen as alternates once the case has concluded.
In the second row of the main courtroom sat Holly Bobo's mother, father, and brother. All three kept their arms around one another for a majority of the morning. After living with the disappearance, death, and alleged rape of their daughter for more than six years, concrete answers about what happened to Holly finally appear to be on the horizon.
"This is going to be very, very rigorous," Judge Creed McGinley told the courtroom packed with people.
"Hopefully we'll be able to get this case done in two weeks," he added.
Jurors were initially summoned here in July, but the case was delayed after defense attorneys said they needed more time to analyze a newly discovered revolver that prosecutors believe was used to kill Holly Bobo. Documents also reviewed by NewsChannel 5 over the last few days reveal that an analysis of the gun showed it did not have the presence of blood on it and was in "non-operating" condition.
Newly filed motions also showed that defense attorneys asked to preclude state prosecutors from introducing any skeletal remains as evidence during the trial. The discovery of Holly's remains in 2014 cracked the case wide open, giving investigators the first hard piece of evidence that the 20-year-old nursing student was dead. Defense attorneys said showing Holly's skull during the trial would be "inflammatory."
Two hundred potential jurors had already filled out a questionnaire leading up to Saturday's jury selections. Most of the questions asked about their familiarity with Holly's disappearance, media coverage of the case, and their thoughts on the death penalty. Once chosen, jurors will be sequestered in a local hotel for the remainder of the trial.
"Don't draw any inference that because there's a lot of news coverage that this case is any more important or less important than any other case," Judge McGinley said.
But the most pressing questions of the morning came from prosecutors surrounding what will likely be the testimony of Jason Autry, who's also accused in Holly's death but has been given an immunity agreement by state prosecutors.
"Can you perceive a time when law enforcement would ever need to get information from someone connected to or is an insider of a crime?" Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Nichols said.
To which one juror responded, "Why shouldn't he get as much time as the person who committed the crime."
Nichols also once again asked jurors if they would be able to apply the death penalty in this case if Zach Adams was found guilty of murder in the 1st degree. Each juror responded individually that they would be able to sentence Adams to death if the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he's guilty.
"It's a horrible case, it's pretty clear that Holly Bobo is a victim in this case, and it's a very serious matter," Zach Adam's attorney Jennifer Thompson told prospective jurors.
"But we are here today because Mr. Adams is innocent of these charges," she said.
The trial has been set to begin Monday morning. We will have complete gavel-to-gavel coverage on NewsChannel 5 Plus and here online.