Reporter: Chris Davis
Thousands of people go missing every year, but few have had such an impact quite like Holly Bobo.
Take a drive through Parsons, Tennessee and you’ll know exactly what I mean. There is not a single light post without a pink bow. There is not a single business window without a “Bring Holly Home” sign. 3 years may have passed, but Decatur County hasn’t stopped searching for their beloved Holly.
It was for that reason that Kelsey Lebechuck, Brock Howard, and I raced to Decatur County when news broke of a major development in the case. For Kelsey, it was personal. From her work at MT10 News to her current position as a part-time weekend producer at WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News in Jackson, she has been following the case since it’s inception. We all have news stories like that, where we get emotionally attached. For Kelsey, Holly Bobo was that kind of story. For Brock and myself, it was the compelling nature of the story. A beautiful young woman, vanishing without a trace, leaving a community always searching, always remembering. Very seldom do college journalists get to cover such a story. It was an opportunity neither of us could pass up.
On Ash Wednesday, in a deeply religious community, the TBI, FBI, and Decatur County Sheriff’s department made the major announcement in the Holly Bobo case. It was a lead so many people had prayed for, but it wasn’t the news they wanted to hear. Law enforcement announced the indictment of Zachary Adams on especially aggravated kidnapping and felony first degree murder.
The gasps from the friends of Holly upon the announcement of the murder charge gave me wet eyes in the media room, and chills every time I hear the audio play. Real emotion. Real sorrow. Real pain.
In the media room, every single media outlet in Middle and West Tennessee was there. So many citizens were glued to their TV sets, awaiting news. Yes, Decatur County has been vigilant for her return, but Tennesseans have been anxious for news as well. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t break fire-code. The media was so packed in, many friends of Holly were forced to listen through an open door for the announcement.
After the press conference was over, the real mad-dash began. Due to the nature of the investigation, so much information was lacking on specifics on Zach, Holly, and the situation in general. As a result, we the media wanted to talk to anyone who might know something about one or both.
As a college journalist, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like this. At one point, as many as 15 news outlets all squeezed in together on interviews. We were in each other’s shots. We were in each other’s way. If we heard something interesting said from afar, we’d run over to try to join in on that interview. My photog Brock and myself got some truly compelling interviews.
I can’t thank enough the friends of the Bobo’s who spoke to us, letting us in on their pain and emotion. Their words are what truly tell the story. Their emotions help the viewer realize what a blow this truly is to this community, more so than a “reporter track” could ever dream of doing.
After many of the witnesses to the announcement had left, we followed WBBJ reporter Heather Mathis to downtown Parsons, Holly’s hometown. It was there when I truly understood what Holly meant to this community. Signs, posters, ribbons, bows – Holly was a part of the very identity of this town. It was awe-inspiring how the quaint little community had rallied and united together, in search for Holly.
While covering the story, I heard many reporters say “the search ends today.”
I think the search will not end until Holly is truly found. Many people we talked to still held out a small, wavering hope that Holly will come home. Until there is no doubt, Parsons and the surrounding community will keep looking. The pink bows won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
And, even if the search never concludes, Decatur County will be forever changed. This search for Holly has left an impression on everyone. Now with murder charges, they’ve essentially lost 2 of their own – Zach being the second. Even Holly’s closest friends have said that. That too is a testament to a town like Parsons. They are truly a close-knit community, where there are pink bows on every pole.