By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press
A man charged in the case of a slain Tennessee nursing student said Thursday that he helped his friend unload the injured woman's body from a truck and served as a lookout when the friend shot her near a river.
Jason Autry testified in the trial of Zachary Adams in Savannah, Tennessee. Adams, 33, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, raping and killing Holly Bobo, who was 20 when she disappeared from her home in Parsons on April 13, 2011.
Her remains were found 3 ½ years later in woods not far from her home in Decatur County, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Nashville.
Autry also is charged in connection with Bobo's rape, kidnapping and slaying. He is on a list of witnesses who could get immunity in the case, and he told prosecutor Jennifer Nichols during questioning that he was testifying because he wanted leniency.
Adams' trial began Monday. Autry's testimony provided the most detailed description of the connection between Adams and Bobo's killing. Bobo's brother, Clint, has testified he saw his sister walk into woods behind their family's home with an unidentified man on the day she disappeared.
Autry said Adams told him that he, his brother John Dylan Adams and Autry's cousin Shayne Austin had raped Bobo. John Dylan Adams also is charged in the case. His trial has not been set. Austin was found dead in an apparent suicide in Florida in February 2015.
Wearing a white prison uniform with the words "maximum security" on the back of his shirt, Autry told jurors he had been locked up for theft and drug convictions three times before he was jailed in the Bobo case. He acknowledged being addicted to methamphetamine and morphine.
Autry said he had known Adams for several years. He said he called Adams on the day of Bobo's disappearance asking Adams for a morphine pill. When Adams called him back, he told Autry that he needed his help.
Autry then drove to Austin's trailer. Autry, whose nickname is "Train," said he bought a pill and went to his car, cooked it down and injected it.
He then walked to Adams' truck and spoke with him.
"He said 'I need you to help me bury this body,'" Autry said. "He said, 'Train, that's Holly Bobo.'"
Adams and Autry drove Adams' truck to the river and retrieved Bobo's body from the back of the vehicle, he said. He said they didn't have the necessary tools to dig a grave, so they decided to throw her into the river.
But Bobo made a sound and moved, indicating she was still alive. Adams went to his truck and retrieved a pistol, Autry said. Autry said he told Adams to wait. Autry then walked around the area to make sure no one was around, he said.
Autry said he gave the all-clear, and shortly afterward heard a gunshot coming from the location where Adams and Bobo were.
"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."
Autry said he heard the sound of a boat. Fearing they would be caught, he and Adams loaded Bobo's body back into the truck and drove away, Autry said.
Autry then told Adams he had to leave because he needed to meet his girlfriend for lunch. But there was another reason he wanted out, Autry said.
"I realized that this old boy had made some bad mistakes, some bad judgments," Autry said. "I was looking for a way to put some distance between me and that situation."
Bobo's disappearance led to a massive search of the fields, farms and woods of western Tennessee. Her case received national attention, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it was the most exhaustive and expensive investigation the agency ever conducted.