PARSONS, Tennessee (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) — Wednesday is the one-week mark of the abduction of Holly Bobo, the Parsons, Tennessee nursing student who was abducted just outside her home as she prepared to leave for school.
It’s a parent’s absolute worst nightmare come true – parents get the call that their daughter has not only been abducted, but that a neighbor heard her scream as she was led into the woods just outside their home.
For the past week, hundreds of people have shown up – day after day – to assist in the search for clues into Holly’s disappearance. On the weekend there were up to nearly 2,000 people searching.
[Scroll down for links to more on Holly’s story.]
Wed., April 13, Day 1: Recap from Decatur County Sheriff
Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt announced on April 13 that Holly Bobo had been abducted from outside her home that morning. It was initially reported that she’d been abducted during a home invasion.
He said Holly was living with her parents and that she left for school between 7 and 7:30 a.m. every morning. He said she attended school at the UT Martin campus in Parsons.
“At approximately 7:30 [a.m.] this date we received a call on Swan Johnson Road of a young lady there that had been abducted supposedly,” Sheriff Wyatt said.
When asked who saw Holly being abducted Sheriff Wyatt said, “It was a neighbor that lives just up the road there from the house. She didn’t see it but heard the screams of the young lady as she was leaving the house.”
Asked if any evidence was recovered from the scene that he could speak of Sheriff Wyatt said, “We have the TBI Violent Crimes Scene on the scene going through the house and going through the scene at this time. We went to the scene immediately. We’re tracking down every lead that we’ve got.”
There were questions as to why so many law enforcement agencies, including federal agents from the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), became involved in Holly’s case on day one. Sheriff Wyatt said they were taking every precaution that they knew to take.
“At this time,” he said, “whatever it might be, then that’s what we’re trying to prepare for.”
“We’ve called in different agencies and we’ve had tracking dogs …
“The captain of the Highway Patrol has been flying his helicopter and we’ve had federal agents here, TBI agents …
“We’ve had neighboring county sheriffs here …
“We’ve got volunteers in the area that are doing ground searches, foot searches, horseback searches …
“We’ve got everything in the area we can hope to bring in, everything that we could get out here looking for the young lady is out here,” Sheriff Wyatt said.
Some volunteers ride ATVs, others go on horseback, some search on foot. Some help with kitchen duties, others with shuttling searchers. Some hold down the fort at the command center while media stands by to get the news out to the public.
He said they didn’t have any leads and didn’t know who might have done this to Holly.
Asked how many personnel he thought they had out there that first day, Sheriff Wyatt said, “I’d be afraid to guess. I’d say probably a 100 plus law enforcement people.”
He said that number did not include volunteers.
“We’re so thankful for that.”
Asked how disturbing this was to his community he said, “Very, in a small rural area that we live in. We would never dream anything like this would happen. But it has and I guess that maybe big city things are coming to rural areas anymore. It’s very disturbing to our community. It’s very disturbing to us as law enforcement.
“We pray for the family, for the young lady,” Sheriff Wyatt said.”It is our hopes and prayers that we find her alive.”
Sheriff Wyatt asked the community to notify the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department immediately if they thought of anything unusual they’d seen or heard that day.
That was on day one, kudos to this man, his department, all other law enforcement agencies, local and federal, and all of the volunteers who have helped in the search for Holly.
Thur., April 14, Day 2: Parents’ hold press conference; search continues
Holly’s parents Dana and Karen Bobo held a press conference Thursday, pleading for the safe return of their daughter. Karen sobbed and could barely speak throughout the entire conference. Her father was visibly shaken as he tried to send a message to his daughter and her abductor.
Dana said he believes the person who took Holly may be from the community and may have known the family’s routine. Karen said, “Holly, I love you so much. Please try to get home to us and if anybody knows anything about her please help us find her. She’s just so precious … you just don’t even know.”
On Thursday police announced they no longer believed Holly was abducted during a home invasion. John Mayer, spokesman for the TBI told ABCNews.com that “the suspect was never inside.”
Early on there was some confusion as to whether Holly’s mother, Karen Bobo, was home at the time of the abduction, and whether Holly’s brother, 25-year-old Clint Bobo, watched his sister being dragged away from their carport and into the woods.
A woman who works at a local school with Karen posted a comment that she heard Karen scream and cry uncontrollably when she learned about Holly’s abduction Wednesday morning.
People were speculating that Clint had something to do with her abduction. Holly’s cousin, country singer Whitney Duncan, said, “Please don’t believe all the speculation. We cannot give u details right now because we do not want to hinder the investigation. Please spread the alert & pray. That’s all we can do.”
Between 300 and 400 people joined in the search for Holly Thursday. Investigators used search dogs and a helicopter to comb the rural area near Holly’s home.
Friday, April 15, Day 3: New clues; brother didn’t witness abduction
There were reports Friday that Holly’s cell phone and camouflage clothing were found in a parked car. Police said the reports were incorrect.
Police announced that Holly’s white lunchbox was found from a creek in the area.
Online rumors spread quickly that Holly’s brother sat back and did nothing while he witnessed a man dressed in camouflage clothing dragging his sister from their carport and into the woods.
Investigators reported Clint saw blood outside the home after seeing Holly talking with a man he believed was her boyfriend, not a stranger, as she was leaving for school Wednesday. Investigators say they now believe Holly was led into the woods by her abductor, feared for her life, and complied with his demands.
Police say Clint and Holly’s boyfriend are not suspects or persons of interest in Holly’s abduction.
Volunteers braved the wind, rain, and cold weather. A tornado was predicted, but that didn’t stop volunteers from pressing on in the search for clues into Holly’s disappearance.
An operator at the Decatur Sheriff’s Department informed me that some 1,500 volunteers assisted in the search for Holly Friday. Volunteers search by foot, horseback, and ATVs.
Holly’s cousin, Whitney, posted on her Facebook wall, “Lord have mercy. I feel like I’m walking in a nightmare.” She appealed to people to help find Holly.
Saturday, April 16, Day 4: Investigation ‘wide open’; reward increased
Expert says finding the lunchbox gives police a direction and agrees with Holly’s father that the abductor is likely someone from the community.
The search Saturday focused on an area four miles wide about six miles from Holly’s home.
Officials were pleading for the same number of people, or more, to assist in the search.
Whitney Duncan thanked everyone involved in helping search for Holly. She said there was a $25,000 reward to anyone leading to the safe return of Holly. That afternoon, it was reported that a Parsons businessman donated another $5,000 toward the reward, increasing it to $30,000.
By late morning it was reported 900 volunteers had signed up to search. It was later reported that 1,108 volunteers had signed up to search.
Encouraging news came from the TBI stating that the search for Holly was still a rescue effort.
School buses are used to shuttle volunteers. Volunteers work to feed large numbers of searchers. Some people stay at the fairgrounds overnight with plans to search again on Sunday.
Sunday, April 17, Day 5: Search intensifies
Initially police asked volunteers to arrive after noon Sunday. Saturday evening they changed their minds and asked volunteers to arrive at 7 a.m.
Officials did not comment on what information or evidence prompted the additional request for help Sunday.
They said they had a lot of ground to cover and that people should bring horses, ATVs ,and good walking shoes or boots.
Taylor Swift fans post Holly’s story on her website.
Officials ask community members to think about anything unusual they may have seen since Holly went missing Wednesday. Click here to read: Police ask locals to think about the past week & to search.
Officials asked for 1,000 volunteers Sunday; the official count of people who had registered that day was 1,535. It was believed some 2,000 people were out searching that day.
The TBI announced they’d received some 250 leads and said they’d located items belonging to Holly other than her lunchbox, but would not say what those items were.
The TBI said no one has been ruled out as suspects, conflicting with earlier reports that Holly’s brother and boyfriend had been ruled out. This caused a massive internet attack against Clint Bobo.
Small amounts of blood found outside Holly’s home are being tested, the TBI said.
During a news conference it was announced there were no plans to scale down the search effort.
Late Sunday afternoon a source tweeted that several waterway searches were in progress and that dive teams were being utilized. Officials asked volunteers to bring horses and 4-wheelers to help in the search.
Local news reporters reported officials said they had a new direction to search but would not indicate what the direction was.
Sunshine and warmer weather was expected. School buses used again to shuttle volunteer searchers.
Local news reporter Will Nunley says most people searching over the weekend were under the age of 25.
Monday, April 18, Day 6: Holly’s story on Good Morning America (April 18)
On Monday morning was the first time since Thursday that someone from Holly’s family addressed the public. Country music singer Whitney Duncan, Holly’s cousin, appeared on Good Morning America with a tearful plea for Holly’s safe return. She asked people to try to remember anything “weird” they might have seen since Holly vanished.
Whitney described Holly as more of a sister than a cousin, and as a homebody and kind of shy girl until you get to know her.
She talked a little about her family, saying they are trying to be strong but that it doesn’t seem real. “That’s the last phone call we ever expect to get,” she said. “It’s a close family, so we’re just trying to hold it together.” Whitney said she and the family has been unable to sleep since Holly was taken from them.
TBI Director Mark Gwyn said they were looking at every bit of evidence they had found in the case and reiterated they’d received over 250 leads.
Gwyn announced the TBI no long believes Holly and her abductor are on foot. He said they found blood, a lunch box, and other evidence, and said they believe the person who abducted Holly is familiar with the local area.
He asks again that all community members think back since Wednesday. Did they see anything different? He stressed the possibility someone could have sold a vehicle, or excessively cleaned a vehicle, possibly an ATV. Click here for a complete list of what Gwyn said people should be looking for.
Online rumors continued growing about Holly’s brother, and his possible involvement in her abduction. Whitney Duncan said, “My cousin, Cling, Holly’s brother, is NOT a suspect & I’m sick of people saying that he is. He has been cleared for good reason.”
TBI’s spokeswoman Kristin Helm responds to my email saying no one has been ruled out but that the focus developing a suspect is outside immediate family and friends. She said both Clint and Drew [Holly’s boyfriend] have been helpful and cooperative, and that Clint is being treated as an eyewitness.
The focus, Helm said, was developing a person of interest who maybe missed work or missed an appointment unexpectedly that day.
Helm told FoxNews.com that Clint initially told investigators that at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, he saw his sister being led into the woods by a man he assumed was her boyfriend. She said he became concerned later when he saw blood outside which prompted him to call 911.
Gwyn announced that Governor Bill Haslam increased the reward for information about Holly’s whereabouts to $75,000. He said as of Monday, there were no persons of interest in the case.
Dive teams were searching waterways and using imaging technology to map the bottoms of bodies of water near Holly’s home.
Investigators were trying to ascertain which items found by searchers were linked to Holly.
The director of the Decatur County Emergency Management Agency, Kevin Cagle, said Monday’s search centered on Natchez Trace State Park north of Holly’s family home in Darden, Tennessee.
Then number of searchers was down to about 300 from over 1,000 each weekend day. Searchers searched the park on horseback, all-terrain vehicles, and on foot.
Gwyn said they received about 30 new leads, bringing the total to about 280 leads. He said again that the focus of the investigation is on someone who lives in the area. He said a person would have to know where they were going, the entrances and exits in order to do this. “We feel like the person is right here in the community.”
There was a rumor posted on an online forum stating, “Rumors have her [Holly] found and was at Vanderbilt [Hospital] – I repeat rumors.”
When asked about his source, the person who posted the comment said his wife is an Assistant DA with “lots of law enforcement connections – this is what she heard from them.”
The posts continued, saying Holly had been found with a dislocated shoulder.
Another poster said if she had been found, that authorities were “keeping it a great secret from every volunteer. Every person on site has debunked this.”
That evening Lt. Wilbanks of Tennessee Highway Patrol said no arrests had been made, no dramatic evidence had been found, “this is still an active search.”
Tuesday, April 19, Day 7: New search tactics
The Tennessee Highway Patrol announced they were trying new search tactics Tuesday. Heavy police presence was witnessed, five roads were closed near Holly’s home, and law enforcement were stopping everyone going in and out of the area hoping to learn new information about Holly’s disappearance.
Investigators also canvassed Holly’s neighborhood, going door-to-door asking neighbors if they saw anything the day Holly disappeared. TBI Director Mark Gwyn says they have nearly 300 leads.
Imaging technology continues to be used to map the bottoms of bodies of water near Holly’s home.
Reward is increased to $80,000, with another $5,000 coming from the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association.
Police have nearly 300 tips and say they’re following up on each one of them.
Gwyn addresses the sea of online rumors and accusations against Holly’s family and her boyfriend saying, “We don’t deal with rumors. We stick to facts. As long as leads come in, we will be here.”
TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm addressed the rumors Holly’s disappearance could have been a hoax saying, “There is no possible way this is a hoax.”
When asked about Holly’s cell phone activity, Gwyn said, “No comment about alleged cell phone activity.”
Helm confirms the search for Holly is still a search and rescue effort. She said she planned to be at the search Wednesday and that there were no new developments in the case Tuesday.
Authorities call on more volunteers to come join in the search, asking them to bring horses, ATVs, and to wear comfortable shoes or boots. About 300 people had signed up to search by 10 a.m. Tuesday.
TBI announces they were continuing the search for Holly with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Churches, including the church attended by Holly and her family, helped shuttle volunteers.
Due to weather concerns, including the threat of tornadoes, law enforcement requests searchers not arrive until 9 a.m. Wednesday rather than the usual 7 a.m. meeting time.
Wed., April 20, Day 8: Candlelight vigil planned, family “Do whatever it takes to bring her home”
Due to weather conditions searchers were asked to arrive at 9 a.m. rather than the normal meeting time of 7 a.m.
Blood was found on the driveway outside Holly’s home the day she was abducted. Kristin Helm, spokeswoman for the TBI said in an email Wednesday afternoon that DNA results have come back on the blood but that the results will not be released.
A Tennessee State Trooper announced that volunteers will take tomorrow off from searching to rest while investigators regroup. They are asking them to be strong and ready to resume the search Friday.
Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt spent time talking with Holly’s family. He is scheduled to share a special message during the candlelight and prayer vigil scheduled Wednesday night. The community-wide vigil will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the fairgrounds.
News anchor for WBBJ-TV Will Nunley reported Wednesday that the message Holly’s family sent to the sheriff is” “Do whatever it takes to bring her home.”
Holly’s family continues to be attacked online.
About two dozen Facebook pages have been created using Holly Bobo’s name, story, and photos. Some are not being properly monitored and have been taken over by “trolls” posting mean and hurtful comments that have served to cause Holly’s family extreme pain at a time when they are already grieving. Some people are taking precious photos of Holly, distorting them, and posting them online.
People are creating fake profiles and spreading vicious rumors about Holly’s family, something that is seen in other missing persons’ cases and crime victims’ cases.
Holly Bobo Search, Day 7: New search tactics, TBI Update
Holly Bobo Search: TBI says this is no hoax, searchers needed Tue., $75K reward
Holly Bobo abduction: TBI says focus on investigation outside family and friends
Holly Bobo: Country singer Whitney Duncan on GMA pleads for cousin’s safe return
Search for Holly Bobo: Search for Holly ‘nothing short of amazing’ continues
Taylor Swift forum shares news of abducted teen, nursing student Holly Bobo
Holly Bobo Search: Plans change for Sunday search
Police update in Holly Bobo search: Many new leads, still search effort
Search for Holly Bobo: Local reporter “Jackets, jeans, courage, and hope needed”
Expert: Finding Holly Bobo’s lunchbox gives direction, investigation ‘wide open’
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