SAVANNAH, TENN. - Fingernail scratch marks streaked Zach Adams’ arms just after 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo disappeared, according to state witnesses, and investigators said he looked nervous then, even “shaking.”
The witnesses testified Tuesday that they had encountered the man now accused of Bobo’s kidnapping, rape and slaying shortly before and after Bobo disappeared, and prosecutors zeroed in on the scratches as evidence of Bobo’s last struggle.
It was the central point of the second day in the death penalty trial underway in Savannah, Tenn., and shows law enforcement considered Adams a suspect early on, even though he was not arrested until almost three years later.
Adams is charged with felony first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape. He has pleaded not guilty.
He is the first of three men to go to trial. Also charged are Jason Autry and John Dylan Adams. Autry has been offered immunity to testify.
FBI Special Agent Matt Ross said he went to Adams' home on April 23, 2011, 10 days after Bobo disappeared. He had received a tip that Adams might be a person of interest.
Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Warren Rainey also testified that Adams' name "kept coming up."
“We traveled to Zach Adams' residence and met him there and asked him what he knew about Holly Bobo or if he knew her or anybody who knew her,” Ross testified. “As we talked to him, I noticed he had some pretty visible scratches.”
Ross said he asked Adams if he could take photos of the scratches and if he could look around Adams’ home. Adams complied, and photos of the scratch marks were shown in court.
Toward the end of the court day, prosecutors called Adams’ former girlfriend Rebecca Earp to testify. Earp testified that she had stayed with Adams the night before Bobo disappeared and she recounted her experience.
Earp, who dated Adams for 2½ years, described her relationship with the defendant as one of regular arguments and even high-tempered threats of violence, and that both of them had used drugs, including methamphetamine and morphine.
Earp testified that on the morning of April 13, 2011, Adams kissed her on the head and left his house between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and that he told her he was going to haul away scrap metal.
Later, after that morning, Earp said she was concerned because Adams had switched phones and called her from his brother’s phone. While news was breaking of Bobo's disappearance, she said, she had suspicions Adams had not gone to haul away the metal.
When he returned, she testified, she saw fingernail scratch marks on his arms and neck.
Earp said that later when she confronted Adams on suspicions that he didn’t go to haul away scrap metal, he threatened her and then brought up Bobo.
“He said he would tie me up just like he did Holly Bobo and nobody would ever see me again,” she said.
Meanwhile, in her cross-examination, defense attorney Jennifer Thompson questioned the witnesses to point out that Adams had cooperated with law enforcement and that no evidence confirmed that the scratches on her client's arms were tied to Bobo.
Thompson also questioned Earp about why, if Adams mentioned Bobo early on, she never called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to try and recover a $250,000 reward.
"I was scared," Earp said.