SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) — It was a prayer circle 6 ½ years in the making.
Shortly after a man was convicted of kidnapping and killing Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo, her family and friends held hands, closed their eyes and thanked God for the guilty verdict.
Family pastor Don Franks spoke softly as those who loved Bobo wept. He told them they will see Holly again.
“She’s waiting on the other side,” Franks said. The group then said “hallelujah.”
After a tense, 11-day trial, a jury in Savannah, Tennessee, found Zachary Adams guilty Friday of kidnapping, raping and murdering Bobo. She was 20 in April 2011 when she was led into the woods behind her home by an unidentified man wearing camouflage in the rural town of Parsons.
Bobo’s disappearance led to a frantic search of the farms, fields and barns of western Tennessee, and her case received national attention. Her remains were found in September 2014 by two men hunting for ginseng in woods not far from her home in Decatur County, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Nashville.
Adams, 33, avoided a possible death penalty by agreeing to a sentence of life in prison plus 50 years on Saturday.
Before her skull was discovered, Bobo’s relatives and friends prayed she would be found alive. After her death was confirmed, their focus switched to finding justice for the young woman known for her singing at church.
“She finally has the peace in the valley that she sang about,” family friend Rickey Alexander said.
After the jury was let out of the courtroom, Bobo’s mother Karen hugged prosecutor Jennifer Nichols and Bobo’s father Dana hugged Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn.
Defense attorney Jennifer Thompson patted Adams on the shoulder and spoke into his ear shortly after the verdict was read. Outside the courtroom, she said she was extremely disappointed in the verdict and maintained that Adams was innocent.
Adams was very upset and trembling after the verdict, she said.
“He was really shaking his head,” Thompson said. “He was white as a ghost.”
Judge C. Creed McGinley moved the trial from Decatur County to neighboring Hardin County in search of an unbiased jury. The jury deliberated 3½ hours Thursday and about seven hours Friday before reaching a verdict.
“I’m not sure you can get an unbiased jury” in a case that has received so much attention in the area, Thompson said.
Prosecutor Paul Hagerman declined comment.
Two other men, Jason Autry and Adams’ brother John Dylan Adams, also face charges…