• Jim Leach


Updated: Aug 17, 2018


The proof has been put on and both sides have made their closing arguments. The jury may have heard things that most of us did not. They also got a much better “look” at the witnesses than we did. As we pointed out in an earlier article, the jury’s perception of what the truth is means more than anything and about 2/3 of our communications process is governed by body language. The demeanor of the witness when he or she was testifying may determine how much the jury will believe that witness. This article will discuss some of the things the jurors may consider in their deliberations

In their first closing statement, the prosecution emphasized several things. The state detailed the horrible things that happened to Holly. One very important point that was emphasized was the testimony of two people who testified that Zach Adams told them he wasn’t worried because the police did not have a gun. Adams made these statements before it was public knowledge that Holly was killed by a firearm as opposed to any other method. It was six months later, after her remains were discovered before the manner of death was known. Apparently Zach knew.

The defense attacked the government witnesses because of their criminal backgrounds. They said the prosecution case is full of holes. Zach Adams’ attorneys say he is 100% innocent of the charges against him.

It is a given that Jason Autry is a low life piece of you-know-what. You cannot “pick” your witnesses and get some with perfect backgrounds. People with perfect backgrounds don’t tend to have a lot of information about terrible crimes.  When it comes down to it, Jason is a snitch, and in a perfect world, if the story he tells is true, he should spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed. However this is not a perfect world. The story that has been presented is that he helped dispose of the body and the others kidnapped, abused and murdered Holley Bobo.

Am I sure that is the limit of his involvement? I am not convinced of that. It is a normal course of business for an informant to tell everything about everyone else, but maybe not be quite as forthcoming about what they have done themselves. Autry was given immunity in exchange for his testimony. He would have not have testified without a “deal”, and without his cooperation, nobody gets prosecuted. Whether we should let one culprit go free in exchange for being able to prosecute another terrible person is a big question. The point is, that is the way it works in many instances.

When you have a “star” witness like Autry, you must do all you can to corroborate his testimony in order to give him some credibility because everybody automatically assumes he is lying. I thought Dinsmore was big in adding back – up to Autry. He verifies he hid Adams truck and that he bought the gun by trading pills for it. He also verified the fight between Adams and Austin. An independent witness placed them all together that afternoon. Mr. Dick Adams says the night of Holly’s disappearance, his grandson, Zach was messed up, which was probably not unusual, but he was also trying to get car keys. That could mean he was without transportation. Maybe Zach was without transportation because he was afraid to drive his truck and it was hidden at Dinsmore’s. Autry said there was one shot fired and the forensic scientist agreed only one shot was fired. If I understood the testimony right, cell phone experts agreed that Autry and Adams were both hear the Birdsong cell phone tower at about the time Autry said they were there.

Last, but not least, we know why Autry gave this testimony. He cooperated to help himself and I will promise it was explained to him in no uncertain terms that if he was caught in a lie, all bets were off and he would be tried, at the least for accessory to first degree murder.  I teach a lot of classes that discuss the use of informants. It is a necessary evil in the police business to deal with snitches. Even though the motive may be distasteful, if I know for sure why a person is giving information, I can work with it. Two of the most widely recognized motives that cause people to cooperate with police are money and gaining leniency for crimes the informant has committed. These are two of my favorite motives because I can easily understand them.

There was no real physical evidence. Neither the police, prosecutors nor defense attorneys can create evidence. They all must deal with what evidence they have and with a case that is years old, there usually is not much physical evidence left, especially when you don’t even know where the main crime scene may be located! In the last few years we have heard several stories about juries who acquitted a defendant because there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence. On CSI or Law and Order or some of those shows, they always have that type of evidence. Well, this is not a TV show or a movie and as I said before, if the evidence is not there, it just isn’t there. It does not at all mean the person who is being charged is not guilty, it only means that particular type of evidence was not present or recovered.

There are some other issues that I have questions about. Why did Zach Adams need Autry anyway if Zach, Dylan and Shayne were already involved. Ordinarily you want to limit the number of people that know you killed someone. One explanation would be that Autry was involved from the beginning. Another possible explanation was provided to me by a respected journalist friend of mine who has been in the courtroom throughout the trial. He said it was obvious Jason Autry was a “leader” in the group. He was bigger, smarter and more sophisticated than the others involved. Also, according to Autry, Dylan Adams, Shayne Austin and Zach Adams were tense and upset with one another. That might be another reason Zach needed Autry’s help. Nobody else would have anything to do with it.

I also wonder about the gun. According to Autry’s testimony, when he first saw the gun, it was on Shayne’s side. Then it showed up in the floorboard in Zach’s truck and was used to kill Holley. If Shayne and Zach were mad at one another, why would Shayne give Zach his gun? If everybody believed Holly was already dead, why did they need a gun in the truck? Maybe they planned to kill an officer if they were stopped with Holly’s body in the truck.

The issue has been raised concerning  Autry being able to review discovery material and make up his story according to what he learned about the case. It would seem he would have been able to make up a little better story if that was the case and removed himself further from any blame. If I had been him and I was making up a story, I would have said something like, “Zach tricked me into coming to the house that morning and then stuck a gun in my face and told me if I didn’t help him, he would kill me.”

It was very coincidental that two separate witnesses, Autry and Phoenix, quote Zach Adams using exactly the same words when describing what he had done to Holly. We know of no reasonable way these two witnesses could have gotten together and made up this statement. I believe Zach Adams used these words, “I couldn’t have picked a prettier b—-. It was fun.”

There has been much discussion about Clint Bobo’s description of the person who abducted his sister. Eye witness testimony was once considered to be some of the best evidence you could have. In recent years eye witness testimony has come under attack, in large part due to the number of people imprisoned due to eye witness evidence and then later being proved to be innocent. A couple of things that can distort a witness’s description are sensory overload and confabulation. Sensory overload can occur when so much happens in a short amount of time, the brain basically cannot absorb all the data correctly. Receiving the original information is the first step in memory and recollection and if it is not done properly, it messes up the entire process. A whole lot of stuff happened in a short amount in Clint’s situation and he could have been somewhat overwhelmed. Confabulation is a psychiatric term describing the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories without the intention to deceive. In Clint’s case this would mean if he thought the man he saw leaving with Holly was her boyfriend, his brain might make the interpretation that the description of the person Clint saw should match the description of the boyfriend. Another thing that can alter the accuracy of a witness’s description is when the witness tries to be too helpfuland provides more detail than they are truly capable of doing. They are actually trying to be helpful and also they may feel if they don’t provide a lot of information, they will appear to be uncooperative or dumb.

The Dicus, Britt, Walker thing is confusing to me. There was a lot of time spent investigating Mr. Britt and it produced no evidence at all. Wire taps are rare and electronic surveillance (bugging) of a residence is almost unheard of in rural west Tennessee. The only testimony I reviewed that appeared to put the spotlight on Britt was the fact that he has been convicted of sex crimes and he lived somewhere in the area of Holly Bobo’s home. I wonder how many convicted sexual offenders lived within a 50 mile radius of Holly? A lot, I bet. I also wonder how Dicus came to the conclusion that whoever abducted Holly Bobo was a sexual predator. He knew she left her home in the company of an unknown person and her personal items were found strewn around the countryside. That was about all that was really known for sure until her remains were found. I don’t see how you take that information and decide a single sexual predator is responsible for what happened to the victim. Walker’s interview of Britt is also confusing. He went to interview a man in jail and the reason he is interviewing this guy is because the TBI case agent believes the inmate is the prime suspect in the disappearance and probable murder of a young woman. Walker says he did not conduct the interview to get testimonial evidence, but the questions he is asking are about finding the remains of Holly Bobo. Sounds like evidence to me. It seems obvious when Britt offered to plead guilty so they could close the case, he was being a smart aleck. I believe if anybody involved thought Britt was genuinely talking about making a plea bargain, which would have to include making a confession, investigators and prosecutors would have been all over it.

I think former TBI SAC Jack Van Hooser was correct when he described Dicus as having tunnel vision. It is fortunate Van Hooser finally was placed in charge of the case.

Former State Attorney General Paul G. Summers first explained the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) method to me when I was a young TBI agent. It is a great principle to follow when investigating a criminal case.

#1 simple thing. Zach told an FBI agent that he went to a gas station and a business in Parsons that morning. It strains belief to think he was running around Parsons that morning and didn’t see someone he knew. He is well known in the area. If his story is true, why didn’t we see someone get on the witness stand and say Zach Adams couldn’t have kidnapped Holly Bobo because I saw him at the service station that morning?

#2 simple thing. Without Jason Autry’s testimony it appears there is no prosecutable case. That’s why the state had to work out a deal with him. If Autry and his attorney reviewed the discovery material, it seems like they should have seen that all Jason had to do was keep his mouth shut. Shayne Austin can’t testify and apparently neither can Zach Adams or Dylan Adams.

Jim Leach served as Special Agent in Charge for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. His book, “You Can Tell ME, a simple guide to effective interviewing” can be found at

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