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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Authorities say they have completed their analysis of more than 460 pieces of evidence in the case of a woman whose partial remains were found three years after her disappearance, possibly bringing defense attorneys a step closer to seeing how prosecutors have linked their clients to her.
Two men, Zachary Adams and Jason Autry, were arrested last spring and charged with murder and kidnapping in the case of Holly Bobo, a nursing student who was 20 when she disappeared from her house in April 2011. In October, John Dylan Adams was charged with raping Bobo. All have pleaded not guilty.
No trial has been set and the defendants' lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The attorneys said they had not received any evidence linking their clients to the crime. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine said Thursday that some hair samples have been sent to the FBI for testing, but the TBI has analyzed all the evidence it has received.
Still, it was unclear when the defense would receive any information. District Attorney Matt Stowe told The Associated Press that they would get the evidence they're requesting "at some point."
At the time of Bobo's disappearance, her brother told police he saw a man dressed in camouflage leading her into the woods near her home in Parsons, located about 110 miles east of Memphis. Last September, more than three years later, authorities said two men searching for ginseng found Bobo's skull in a wooded area not far away.
Bobo's disappearance and the subsequent lengthy search attracted national attention as authorities distributed posters with her photograph throughout the South.
Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to seek the death penalty. Hearings scheduled for this month have been postponed to an undetermined future date.
Jennifer Lynn Thompson, Adams' attorney, says state prosecutors have not even told her who found Bobo's remains or where they were found.
"I do not understand what is happening," Thompson said. "I have never before been involved in a case where there is no information about why my client was charged."
In the motion to dismiss, Thompson and Fletcher Long, Autry's lawyer, asked the judge to force prosecutors to produce "all dental record analysis and forensic studies" performed on the skull.
Adams has been in jail since March and Autry has been in jail since April. At a court hearing Dec. 17, Decatur County Circuit Judge Creed McGinley expressed concern that prosecutors had not yet provided key evidence to defense attorneys. He ordered the state to begin turning it over by Dec. 24.
Thompson says the state missed that deadline.
Then, TBI Director Mark Gwyn — who has said the Bobo investigation has been the most exhaustive and expensive in agency history — announced he was suspending all work on the case after District Attorney Matt Stowe accused TBI agents of misconduct.
Stowe took office Sept. 1 after defeating District Attorney Hansel McCadams, who had indicted Adams and Autry.
The dispute was only resolved after Stowe stepped down from the case and Jennifer Nichols, a Shelby County attorney who was Stowe's co-counsel on the case and who had worked with death-penalty cases, was appointed as a special prosecutor. She is the third prosecutor in the case, which Stowe said is unusual.
He said the fact that multiple prosecutors have been involved, plus the complex nature of the case, have contributed to the delays.
"We're talking about terabytes and terabytes of information," he said.
Attorney Steve Farese, who represents the Bobo family, said the recent developments in the case are "different" than in other cases, and he acknowledged that the family is concerned with how the case is going.
"But they understand that this is a tedious process and they want to make sure everyone has their t's crossed and their i's dotted and to get this thing done right," Farese said.
Later, Farese added: "No one should lose focus that this is about justice."