PARSONS, Tennessee (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) — Monday marked two months since Holly Bobo was abducted from outside her Darden, Tennessee home – no one thought it possible that her disappearance would go on this long. Below are questions that have been raised about the investigation with answers from law enforcement, provided as an attempt to dispel rumors and bring things into perpective in Holly’s case.
A formal plea – supported by those who love Holly – was issued Tuesday requesting people with information to come forward, and requesting Holly’s abductor to bring her home to her family. Read: Holly Bobo missing 2 months, formal plea for her safe return.
Dozens of comments made to the article by the public were uplifting and supportive to Holly’s famliy. One included a plea from Kelly Garrett that read: “To those out there with information, imagine your loved one missing. Imagine the pain that you would feel. Come forward with any and ALL information that can help this family. Noone – NOONE – deserves to have a loved one disappear. Please help!”
Holly is the 20-year-old nursing student who was abducted from outside her family home on April 13 as she was leaving for classes she attended at University of Tennessee Martin in Parsons about seven miles from her home. More on Holly’s story: Case info and up-to-date news links.
Days after Holly went missing her parents, Dana and Karen Bobo, made a public plea for her safe return. Their words and the pain in their faces are forever etched into the minds of many who have helped to search for Holly and offer support to her family.
Upcoming event in support of Holly
On Saturday, June 25 the Tennessee River Riders Association are sponsoring the Holly Bobo Benefit Ride. Go to www.tnriverriders.com for more information and to pre-register, or call 731-614-3324, 731-549-4800, or 731-549-4252. The cost of the ride is $10 and all proceeds go to Holly’s family.
Recent event in support of Holly
On May 21 a group of locals and out-of-towners gathered together to walk for Holly. About 200 people were there showing support for Holly, her family, and law enforcement. The main purpose of the walk was to keep Holly’s face in the public eye and her story alive.
Jaclyn Grigg, who was in attendance said, “It was wonderful. I was humbled by the amount of people that showed up considering it has been over a month since she went missing!”
Kenneth Mills, who also attended the walk, said, “I have two young daughters and if I was to have been in their situation I would want to die. I could never say that I know how they feel because I have not been in there like they are now.”
The investigation into Holly’s disappearance is ongoing. Law enforcement officials say they are working diligently to bring resolution to this kidnapping case and that the investigators originally assigned to the case remain on the case today.
West Tennessee Criminal Investigation Division’s Special Agent in Charge, John Mehr, said in an email Wednesday, “We continue to follow leads and develop information. Agents and officers from several agencies continue working together to locate Holly and find the person or persons who are responsible for her abduction.”
“We are requesting that anyone who has information that have not contacted law enforcement to please give us their information,” Mehr said. “We request people with information to contact us directly at 1-800-TBI-FIND. Remember there is a reward in excess of $80,000.”
Mehr stressed that the TBI has not given clearance to any search group to receive tips or leads. They are asking people to call them directly. People can leave anonymous tips as well.
“We know people have that information. Just please call us there’s no doubt in my mind. There are people who know what happened to Holly, and there may be more than one person involved,” Mehr told CBS Tuesday.
Mehr suggested that if more people are involved someone may talk. If anyone has overheard or seen conversations take place that could lend a clue to the investigation they need to call investigators, he said.
Questions posed by the public
Members of the public have posed a number of questions regarding the investigation into Holly’s disappearance. Below are responses to those questions, supported by law enforcement working on Holly’s case.
Why isn’t the FBI involved in Holly’s case?
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) spokeswoman Kristin Helm confirmed that the TBI is leading the investigation and the FBI continues to work the case with them. Other local, state, and federal agencies have, and continue to assist in the investigation as needed.
Helm said in an email Tuesday, “The FBI has been working this case with us from day one. We still have the original case agents assigned to the case.”
Why is no one searching for Holly?
Just because searches are no longer publicized in the media doesn’t mean they aren’t taking place.
Special Agent Mehr confirmed that two months after Holly was abducted officials are still searching local areas every week. Agents still occupy a command post at the National Guard Armory in Parsons.
Is it true the TBI is no longer receiving leads and tips in Holly’s case?
According to Helm it was misreported that no more leads are coming in Holly’s case. “TBI agents have never said that ‘there are no more leads’,” Helm said.
TBI Special Agent Mehr said authorities still receive and follow tips every day. He said in an email Friday, “The TBI, FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, Tennessee Department of Homeland Security, and Decatur County Sheriff’s Office are working together every day on the case and we have other agencies assisting when they are called upon.”
Is it true all suspects’ alibis have been cleared?
CBS reported that in an interview with Special Agent Mehr on Monday Mehr said all suspects have had alibis and the alibis have been checked and substantiated. This information raised concerns in the minds of the public.
Mehr was asked to confirm the statement regarding suspects’ alibis. He responded via email Wednesday saying the information is incorrect and that he was misquoted.
He said he told media that the TBI has interviewed many people, including Holly’s friends, and that they do not disclose what was said.
Mehr added that he said nothing about their alibis and that the TBI does not comment on whether a person is ruled out.
Is there a chance Holly ran away?
On Tuesday TBI Special Agent John Mehr told CBS affiliate WREG that the TBI has ruled out the possibility that Holly could have run away.
How is Holly’s case classified with the TBI?
In an email Friday Special Agent Mehr confirmed that Holly’s case is classified a kidnapping case. He stated last week that her case is not being investigated as a homicide case.
Why hasn’t the TBI released DNA results or all items found during searches?
It is the duty and responsibility of the TBI to protect the integrity of the investigation into Holly’s abduction, as in any criminal and missing persons’ case they handle.
Therefore, they will only release information they believe could help in their efforts to find Holly, and will withhold information they believe could hinder their investigation or their chances of finding Holly and bringing those responsible to justice.
Was Holly wearing tennis shoes or flip flops when she went missing?
There has been some confusion whether Holly was wearing tennis shoes or flip-flops when she was abducted. Helm confirmed via email May 26 that Holly was not wearing tennis shoes at the time of her abduction, as was previously reported, and was instead wearing black flip-flops.
Why are there so many rumors in Holly’s case?
Well-meaning and not so well-meaning people who continue spreading rumors and speculation – information that has not been confirmed as fact – are doing more harm than good in Holly’s case. The TBI has addressed this issue with several news sources over the past month.
“As investigators continue to diligently work Holly’s case, they remain focused on facts and evidence. The rumors and speculation surrounding the case do not help in finding Holly,” Helm said in an email Wednesday. “They simply inflame the public’s curiosity as to what happened to her [Holly] and muddy the waters for law enforcement.
“TBI is as committed to solving this case as the agency is to solving the numerous other criminal investigations currently underway,” Helm added.
A local, who wishes to remain anonymous said Monday, “Some of the rumors are so incredibly unbelievable and ridiculous I can’t imagine people actually believe them. The worst part is they are spreading them to others and over time the story is so inflated. You know, if it weren’t such a sad situation some things said would almost be comical. But nothing about this is funny,” she said.
There has been so much misinformation in this case that people aren’t clear on even basic facts. One person posted a comment to an article saying, “Sounds like the FBI needs to get involved here.”
As Helm stated, the FBI has been working the case with the TBI from day one.
When a missing person’s case is not quickly solved it takes a toll on the family, friends, and community. Add to that an online community of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who take interest in the case.
As time passes and little is heard from the family or from law enforcement people become anxious for answers. It’s not unusual for people to begin speculating and spreading rumors. Over time people aren’t sure what’s fact and what’s rumor.
Each missing person’s case is unique. What is done in one case is not always done in another. Law enforcement makes recommendations to the family on what they should and should not do when their loved one goes missing. It is then up to the family if they want to take their advice.
Dana and Karen Bobo have been publicly criticized for not being more vocal in the media. They are by far not the only parents of a missing person who have remained, for the most part, silent. They need to do what’s best for their daughter.
Odessa Minor, the aunt of a missing teen who was later found murdered, speaks from experience when she said, “Parents sometimes need to be kept protected and out of the spotlight.” She said for her family it took 30 days to learn what happened to her nephew, Austin King. She says she can’t imagine what families go through who have to wait beyond that timeframe.
She also said in their case the perpetrator was local and that he was present at the searches and candlelight vigils. He has since been arrested and charged in Austin’s abduction and muder.
There is also concern that some articles written have been misleading and serve to further inflate the rumor-mill. For example, articles have inferred the TBI is incapable of solving missing persons’ cases, citing two unsolved cases dating back to 1996. It is important to keep things in perspective and do your own research rather than believe everything that people are posting as fact. Sadly, there are many unsolved missing persons cases in each state across the U.S.
In Holly’s case everything most people could hope and pray for happened and still she has not been found. According to the sheriff of Decatur County, Roy Wyatt, on day one approximately 150 law enforcement officials were brought in to assist in the investigation – local, state, and federal officials, including the FBI. And by that weekend over 2,000 people stopped what they were doing to join in the volunteer ground search for Holly.
The ground searches were hampered by severe weather conditions. By the time it was safe to search law enforcement officials had made the decision to call off volunteer ground searches. This is not uncommon practice in missing persons’ cases and is done for a variety of sound reasons – including the fact that continuing with ground searches could hinder the investigation, damage evidence, or potentially put the missing person in further danger.
Is it true that a secret search group is working with the FBI and TBI?
The TBI, the lead agency in Holly’s case, has not given clearance to any search group to receive tips or leads. They are, instead, asking people to call them directly.
Special Agent Mehr suggested that more people may be involved, and that someone may talk. If anyone has overheard or seen conversations take place that could lend a clue to the investigation they need to call investigators, he said.
Mehr said there are several websites set up by private people asking for information and stating they are passing that information along to law enforcement. He stressed this is incorrect, and that officials have not authorized any of these sites.
Helm also confirmed via email last month that the TBI had not provided clearance for private search groups to search for Holly, and said claims that findings from a lengthy investigation by a private organization were submitted to the FBI, TBI, and Decatur County Sheriff’s Department were untrue.
Does law enforcement support the use of psychics in missing persons’ cases?
The issue of the use of psychics in Holly’s, and other missing persons’ cases has come up and been reported on over the past few months: Missing persons and abductions reveal psychics’ failures, a report on psychic detectives by Inside Edition, and The Psychic whistle-blowers showcase 2011 report, which discusses at length the use of psychics in missing persons’ cases.
In 2006 the mother of a missing boy shared her perspective on the use of psychics in missing persons cases in a blog post she wrote: Project Jason: Introduction to the psychics and missing people series.
The general concensus has been that psychics are not helpful in finding missing persons.
In an effort to confirm this finding, a number of law enforcement officials, search and rescue teams, and missing persons’ organizations were contacted via email or by phone last month: Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park, Former FBI Profiler Clint VanZandt, Retired Waterbury Police Sergeant and Private Investigator Todd Lovejoy, West Valley City Police Lieutenant William Merrill, CEO and Search and Rescue Coordinator Harry Oakes with the International K9 Search and Rescue Services, President of American Search Dogs Paulette Bennett, Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons (CUE Center) Founder Monica Caison, Homicide Survivor and Violence Expert Susan Murphy-Milano, and Founder of Klaas Kids Foundation Marc Klaas.
They were asked for their personal experiences in the use of psychics in missing persons’ cases, and if they believe the use of psychics is helpful in finding missing persons.
Their responses were varied in their personal experiences, but the general concensus among them was the same as the recent articles – psychics do not help in missing persons’ cases and they don’t know of a single case where a psychic helped find a missing person.
Many commented that instead, psychics often serve to traumatize families and interfere with the investigation. The problem, they say, is that so many psychics or intuitives who claim to have a tip or lead, or to have seen a vision have led law enforcement on wild-goose chases and taken up precious time that could be better used by law enforcement officials in working their cases.
In the Bobo’s case, they were offered, and declined the services of psychic Carla Baron.
Some have criticized the Bobos for their decision to not enlist in her services, given she offered to do so free of charge. Last month Carla Baron was contacted and asked, among other things, what her perspective is on the use of psychics in missing persons’ cases and how many missing persons she helped find. She declined to comment saying, “I rarely give interviews and I feel I should wait on this one.”
And while the Bobos’ decision to decline her services was criticized by some, rejecting the use of a psychic is not at all uncommon in missing persons’ cases.
Families should be respected for their decision to use, or reject a psychic no matter what their reason – be it at the urging of law enforcement, their belief psychics are not helpful in missing persons’ cases, personal religious beliefs, or a number of other reasons.
Is there still a reward being offered?
Yes, a reward is still being offered in Holly’s case.
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Holly’s abduction has reached $85,000. Holly’s community has raised more than $25,000. Another $50,000 was offered by Governor Bill Haslam, and another $5,000 from the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association.
According to Helm, the Governor’s portion of the reward will be for five years per state statute.
Does the TBI believe Clint Bobo’s story?
Asked to confirm information reported about details of the morning Holly went missing, and if the TBI believes Holly’s older brother, Clint Bobo’s story, Helm confirmed the following:
- On the morning of April 13, the day Holly disappeared, both of her parents had gone to work
- At 7:40 a.m. Holly walked to her black Ford Mustang to leave for school
- A dog barked, waking Holly’s older brother, Clint Bobo
- Clint looked out the kitchen window and saw a man dressed in camo leading Holly into the woods by the arm
- Clint walked outside and saw a pooled small puddle of blood and Holly’s car in the driveway
- Clint then called 911 and his mother
- Clint then went to the woods to look for Holly
- Police arrived shortly after 8 a.m.
- No one has been ruled out. However, contrary to what some bloggers are saying, Helm has confirmed the TBI believes Clint’ Bobo’s story
Helm said the following information was not provided by the TBI and said she could not confirm it as fact:
- Dana Bobo searches woods daily for Holly
- Clint was asleep when Holly packed her lunch for school
- Clint saw a spilled Coke can on the ground next to Holly’s car
- Clint is a psychology student
More on Holly’s story:
Holly Bobo Abduction: Case info and up-to-date news links
Holly Bobo: Missing 2 months, formal plea for her safe return
Holly Bobo Abduction: 1-month wrap-up, ‘Somebody knows something’
Click on “SUBSCRIBE” button above to receive email notifications of this National Missing Persons news writer’s articles as they are published.
Source: CBS News, Tennessean